SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BASICS
“In my wife's case, I think saying: ‘I am disabled’ was harder and more traumatic than anything else that has followed... Accepting the limitations of PH as a new fact of life and moving on took some doing.”
- Alan Harder, PH Caregiver and former SSA Employee
What is Social Security Disability?
Social Security Disability (SSD) is essentially an insurance plan that helps to cover medical expenses when you are unable to work. In general, the Social Security Administration (SSA) pays benefits to people who cannot work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. The benefits paid to SSD recipients come from money acquired via Social Security payroll taxes (FICA).
How Do I Know If I Qualify for SSD?
In order to qualify for SSD benefits, you must meet both an earning and disability requirement:
- Earning requirement: Because SSD pulls from money acquired via payroll taxes, to receive benefits you must have worked jobs where you paid into Social Security payroll taxes (FICA) over a period of time.
- Disability requirement: You must also have a medical condition that meets the SSA's definition of disability. Social Security pays only for total disability, defined by your inability to work.
The SSA considers you disabled if you cannot do work that you did before and SSA decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s). Additionally, your disability must last or be expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
Children under the age of 18 are not eligible for SSD, but may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income instead, depending on family income.
Some adults over the age of 18, but disabled before the age of 22 may be eligible for child's benefits – paid on a parent’s Social Security earnings record - if a parent is deceased or starts receiving retirement or disability benefits. These beneficiaries must be unmarried.
All beneficiaries undergo the same medical disability assessment.
If I Qualify, When Do I Begin Receiving Benefits?
If your application is approved, you will receive your first Social Security benefit either on the sixth full month after the date the SSA finds that your disability began or the first month after your approval (if your approval takes longer than five months.) However, Social Security benefits are paid in the month after the month for which they're due.
If your disability began on January 15, 2010, your first benefit would be paid for the month of July 2010, the sixth full month of disability. You would receive your benefit payment in August 2010.
When Will My Benefits End?
Benefits usually continue until you are able to work again on a regular basis. There are also a number of special rules called work incentives that provide continued benefits and health care coverage to help you make the transition back to work if you are able. Learn more about working with disability
If you are receiving SSD benefits when you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits but the amount remains the same.
Your Medicare benefits (Part A and B) will begin 29 months after the onset date, or 24 months after you receive your first benefit check.
How Much Will I Receive with My SSD Benefits?
The amount of your monthly disability benefit will vary depending on your average lifetime earnings. The Social Security Statement you receive each year displays your lifetime earnings and provides an estimate of your disability benefit based on a weighted formula of the amount of taxes you have paid over the years. It also includes estimates of retirement and survivors benefits that you or your family may be eligible to receive in the future.