What is Social Security Disability?

What is Social Security Disability? – Overview

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are government-backed programs that provide financial assistance to individuals who meet the disability requirements set by the federal or state governments.

However, before you apply for SSDI or SSI, you should understand these programs’ basics and apply properly to ensure your benefits are delivered promptly. Ensure you keep all relevant documentation requirements when applying for Social Security disability benefits.

Basics of Social Security Disability Benefits

The SSDI initiative provides benefits to eligible individuals and certain family members based on their work history and Social Security taxes paid, not on whether they have health insurance.

Eligibility for SSDI requires having worked in jobs covered by Social Security and having paid Social Security taxes, accumulating sufficient work credits based on your age when you become disabled. The SSI program provides financial assistance to individuals of any age, including adults and children, who have a disability or are blind and who have limited income and resources, without the requirement of having worked or paid Social Security taxes.

SSDI and SSI are two different insurance-assistance programs, but their medical eligibility requirements are the same. If you meet the non-medical requirements, you become eligible for monthly financial aid from the government, which is intended to help with living expenses rather than specifically to treat your medical condition. This is applicable only when your medical condition is expected to last at least one year or can be fatal.

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

You can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) online or in person.

The general steps to apply for Social Security disability benefits are accurate and do not require correction but emphasize the need for thorough preparation and understanding of both medical and non-medical eligibility criteria:

1. Gather all information and documents you need to apply for Social Security disability benefits. It is advised to review the Adult Disability Checklist provided by SSA (Social Security Administration) before applying at https://www.ssa.gov/hlp/radr/10/ovw001-checklist.pdf. This information is crucial to ensure you have all the relevant documents to apply for SSDI or SSI benefits.

2. You will then need to complete the application form and submit your application.

3. The SSA will review your application to check if it meets the basic requirements for disability benefits.

4. The SSA confirms that you, the applicant, have worked enough to qualify.

5. The SSA evaluates your current work activities to determine if your work activity is considered substantial gainful activity (SGA), which might affect your eligibility for disability benefits.

6. The SSA will process your application and forward your application to the Disability Determination Services office in your state.

7. The DDS office of your state will make the final decision after determining disability.

Post-Application for Social Security Disability Benefits

Once you have successfully applied for social security benefits, you must be patient and wait. The processing time for disability benefits applications varies. The exact time required for processing an application depends on the nature of the disability, applicable quality reviews, and essential medical evidence/examinations.

Once the SSA receives your application, they will review it and contact you directly if they have any queries or need clarification. The SSA may request additional documents before proceeding further.

Once the state agency has determined your disability, you will receive a letter with the SSA’s final decision. Usually, it may take 3 to 5 months for an initial decision to be announced for an application.

In addition, if you add information about family members, the SSA will inform you if they are eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

If you are unsatisfied with the SSA’s decision, you can appeal it. You can request an appeal in writing within 60 days (2 months) of receiving the notice of the decision. Here are the four levels of appealing an SSA decision to deny your Social Security disability benefits application:

  • Reconsideration
  • Hearing by an administrative law judge
  • Review by the Appeals Council
  • Federal Court Review

Submitting Application for Social Security Disability Benefits

As mentioned, you can choose two methods of applying for Social Security disability benefits – online and in-person.

You can interact with SSA mostly online. If you cannot access online services, you can seek assistance at your local Social Security office. You can find the contact details of your local Social Security office using the SSA’s Office Locator link https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp and search under the “Social Security office information” option. The toll-free office number on the website will be your local Social Security office.


Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are the two largest federal-funded assistance programs for people with disabilities. Though the two programs may vary individually, they are both administered by the Social Security Administration. These programs help thousands of disabled Americans live comfortable and well-settled lives.

See Also

What is Social Health Insurance

DHHS Program

Medicaid for Disabled

VA Disability Rates

What is Considered a Disability

What is Disability Insurance

Signs That You Will Be Approved for Disability

Current Version
August 1, 2023
Updated By
Andrea Morales G.
November 19, 2022
Written By
Shubham Grover
March 16, 2024
Updated By
Andrea Morales G.

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