A disability that interferes with your ability to work can make it hard to make it financially. You can buy disability insurance, but it typically comes at a high cost that many can’t afford. Social Security Disability Insurance bridges the gap for people who can't afford disability insurance.
How Does Social Security Disability Insurance Work?
If you have a long enough work history (more on that below) you may be eligible for monthly benefits from the Social Security Administration if you become disabled. The Social Security Administration pays SSDI benefits as long as you are disabled and/or unable to work. If you hit retirement age before returning to work, your benefits transfer to retirement benefits rather than disability.
Keep in mind that the Social Security Administration determines if you are unable to work. They look at your current occupation as well as alternatives that you may qualify for based on your education and experience.
It’s a bit harder to qualify for social security disability insurance benefits than private insurance. Only about 33% of applicants get approved. Basic qualifications include:
- Proof of your disability and that it will continue for at least 12 months
- You must have a history of working for enough years and earned enough credits
You earn ‘work credits’ based on your annual earnings from working for someone or self-employment. Today, workers earn one credit for every $1,360 in income and can earn up to 4 credits per year. In order to obtain full benefits, you generally need 40 credits and have earned 20 of them within the last 10 years to qualify for disability insurance. There may be an exception for younger workers, though.
In some cases, a widow or widower may also be eligible for the benefits of their disabled spouse. In addition, disabled children may also receive benefits until they are 18 years old.
How Much Can You Get?
The amount of SSDI you receive is based on your lifetime earnings prior to the disability. Your level of disability or current income don’t play a role. Instead, they look at the average of your annual lifetime income and adjust for inflation. On average, recipients receive between $800 and $1,800 per month. But, if you have any other income coming in, such as state disability payments or workmen’s comp, it will decrease the amount of social security disability benefits you receive.
How to Apply
It’s important to apply for your social security disability benefits right away. The Social Security Administration offers three options:
- Via phone 1-800-772-1213
- Visit your local Social Security Office
When you apply, make sure you have all pertinent information regarding your medical condition including medical records, doctor’s contact information, lab results, names and dosages of medication, and proof of your most recent employment. If you’ll claim family members too, you must provide all of their identifying information as well.
Social security disability insurance helps cover the cost of some of your expenses while you are unable to work. It does take a while to get through the process, so make sure you apply immediately to speed the process along.