Social Security disability insurance, commonly abbreviated as SSDI, is a Social Security program that provides monthly benefits to you if you’ve become disabled before your retirement age and are unable to continue working. You may have heard it as “workers’ disability.”

Eligibility for Social Security Disability

To qualify for the SSDI program, you’re required to have a work a particular amount of years in an occupation where you paid taxes towards Social Security (FICA taxes). If you had not completed enough years of work when you became disabled, and have low income and assets, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is another Social Security program that you can apply for instead of SSDI. Particularly, you must have acquired a specific amount of work credits; you’re able to earn up to 4 work credits a year.

Work Credits

The amount of credits necessary to qualify for SSDI benefits depends on your age when you became disabled. For instance, if you were 50 years old when you became disabled, you’ll need 28 work credits, or to have worked for 7 years (and at least five of those years have to be within the last 10 years.)

Medical Eligibility

You’re also required to have a medical condition that satisfies the Social Security Administrations definition of disability. SSDI benefits only provided to those with a severe, long-term, and total disability.

Severe is defined as a condition that prevents you from completed basic work-oriented tasks. Long-term is when your condition is predicted to last and has lasted at least 1 year. Total disability, according to the Social Security Administration, is defined when you are unable to complete “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) for at least one whole year. If you’re still working and earning over $1,180 each month in 2018, the SSA will determine that you’re able to complete SGA and that you do not qualify for SSDI benefits because you’re not disabled enough. For blind applications, you cannot earn more than $1,970 a month.

Approval for Disability Benefits

Once you’ve been approved to receive disability benefits, SSDI benefits won’t be paid until you have disabled for five whole months, due to the five-month waiting period for SSDI. Even if you’re approved instantly, you are still subject to wait 5 months before being paid benefits.

However, it’s unlikely that you’ll be approved before at the very least six months and after at least one form of appeal. Once you’re finally approved, you would start receiving disability backpay starting with the six months after your disability started (your disability onset date.)

Your family members could also be eligible for a partial monthly benefit.

You are able to continue being paid SSDI benefits for as long as your medical condition disables you from working. The Social Security Administration will conduct a continuing disability review (CDR) on your account every 1 to 3 years to evaluate your condition and notice any improvement.


Denial of Disability Benefits

If your SSDI application is denied (where most first applications are), you submit an appeal. You have to request a review of the denial within 60 days of when you receive the letter of denial. First, you must complete the initial step of requesting a reconsideration, a review of your account by a different disability claims examiner. If you are repeatedly denied, you may submit a 2nd level appeal by requesting a hearing with an administrative law judge who is employed for the Social Security Administration