zachSSDI1012018-07-19T21:30:31+00:00

Free SSDI ebook Get it right the first time

Applying for Social Security Disability:

The Path to Benefits

Begin your journey here with information that can help you navigate the application process, save time, and avoid pitfalls.

Social Security Disability Insurance:

The Basics

What is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is financial support for workers with disabilities, paid monthly by the government. It continues until you’re able to return to work on a regular basis or until retirement age, when it automatically converts to retirement benefits of the same dollar amount. SSDI is one of several Social Security Administration (SSA) programs covered by the FICA deductions that come out of every paycheck. Most people don’t really think about FICA deductions. But now, you know why they’re important.

Who can get it?

The SSA looks at medical and work history information to determine who qualifies for SSDI benefits. Generally, to qualify for SSDI, you must:

  • Have a medical condition that prevents you from doing any type of work for at least 12 months or is expected to result in death,

  • Meet the legal definition of disabled;

  • Have been working 5 out of the last 10 years in jobs covered by Social Security, and

  • Be of working age – in other words, between 21 and retirement age. Retirement age ranges from 65-67, depending on the year you were born.

How do I claim it?

To get SSDI benefits, you must apply to the SSA. The initial application is similar to taxes: there are forms you can fill out on your own, or you can have a professional representative do them for you. The SSA reviews applications to determine who qualifies for monthly SSDI benefit payments. This sounds simple, but: remember the “definition of disabled” above? Honestly, proving this is the hardest part of claiming Social Security disability benefits – and the reason many applicants are denied.

What is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is financial support for workers with disabilities, paid monthly by the government. It continues until you’re able to return to work on a regular basis or until retirement age, when it automatically converts to retirement benefits of the same dollar amount. SSDI is one of several Social Security Administration (SSA) programs covered by the FICA deductions that come out of every paycheck. Most people don’t really think about FICA deductions. But now, you know why they’re important.

Who can get it?

The SSA looks at medical and work history information to determine who qualifies for SSDI benefits. Generally, to qualify for SSDI, you must:

  • Have a medical condition that prevents you from doing any type of work for at least 12 months or is expected to result in death,

  • Meet the legal definition of disabled;

  • Have been working 5 out of the last 10 years in jobs covered by Social Security, and

  • Be of working age – in other words, between 21 and retirement age. Retirement age ranges from 65-67, depending on the year you were born.

How do I claim it?

To get SSDI benefits, you must apply to the SSA. The initial application is similar to taxes: there are forms you can fill out on your own, or you can have a professional representative do them for you. The SSA reviews applications to determine who qualifies for monthly SSDI benefit payments. This sounds simple, but: remember the “definition of disabled” above? Honestly, proving this is the hardest part of claiming Social Security disability benefits – and the reason many applicants are denied.

What is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is financial support for workers with disabilities, paid monthly by the government. It continues until you’re able to return to work on a regular basis or until retirement age, when it automatically converts to retirement benefits of the same dollar amount. SSDI is one of several Social Security Administration (SSA) programs covered by the FICA deductions that come out of every paycheck. Most people don’t really think about FICA deductions. But now, you know why they’re important.

Who can get it?

The SSA looks at medical and work history information to determine who qualifies for SSDI benefits. Generally, to qualify for SSDI, you must:

  • Have a medical condition that prevents you from doing any type of work for at least 12 months or is expected to result in death,

  • Meet the legal definition of disabled;

  • Have been working 5 out of the last 10 years in jobs covered by Social Security, and

  • Be of working age – in other words, between 21 and retirement age. Retirement age ranges from 65-67, depending on the year you were born.

How do I claim it?

To get SSDI benefits, you must apply to the SSA. The initial application is similar to taxes: there are forms you can fill out on your own, or you can have a professional representative do them for you. The SSA reviews applications to determine who qualifies for monthly SSDI benefit payments. This sounds simple, but: remember the “definition of disabled” above? Honestly, proving this is the hardest part of claiming Social Security disability benefits – and the reason many applicants are denied.

How much will I get?

Social Security Disability Calculator

Earnings in jobs covered by Social Security are used to determine the amount of monthly SSDI benefits payments.
Right now, the average for an individual is $1,166, and the maximum is $2,639.

SSDI Calculator

For SSDI, you must be younger than retirement age.

Enter your average for the last 10 years, up to $120,000

$10,000$120,000
Your Monthly SSDI PaymentThis is a general estimate for your SSDI payments.
 
/month
Source
 

Paper, plastic or virtual?

You can decide whether to get your SSDI benefit payments by paper check, debit card, or a direct deposit into your bank account.

Source

8 More Reasons to Apply for SSDI

Approval for SSDI unlocks access to money-saving, life-enhancing benefits beyond your monthly payments.

Medicare Coverage

You’re eligible for this medical, hospital and prescription coverage at any age, 24 months after your SSDI benefits begin.

COBRA Extension

Your current health plan’s COBRA benefits could be extended if you get SSDI, for coverage that lasts 11 months longer.

LTD Security

If you have private long-term disability (LTD) insurance, it probably requires you to apply for SSDI. Doing this can protect LTD benefits.

Protected Retirement

Reach your retirement age while on SSDI, and you’re automatically switched to Social Security retirement benefits in the same amount.

Dependent Benefits

SSDI approval can activate benefits for your children under the age of 18, adding up to 50% more income to your monthly payments.

Cost-of-Living Adjustment

The SSA evaluates cost of living allowances annually, which could increase your monthly payment.

Tax Relief

You may not have to pay income taxes on a portion of the SSDI benefit payments you get each month.

Return to Work

There are incentives if you return to work: free help from a certified Employment Network, protection for SSDI income, and more.

8 More Reasons to Apply for SSDI

Approval for SSDI unlocks access to money-saving, life-enhancing benefits beyond your monthly payments.

Medicare Coverage

You’re eligible for this medical, hospital and prescription coverage at any age, 24 months after your SSDI benefits begin.

COBRA Extension

Your current health plan’s COBRA benefits could be extended if you get SSDI, for coverage that lasts 11 months longer.

LTD Security

If you have private long-term disability (LTD) insurance, it probably requires you to apply for SSDI. Doing this can protect LTD benefits.

Protected Retirement

Reach your retirement age while on SSDI, and you’re automatically switched to Social Security retirement benefits in the same amount.

Dependent Benefits

SSDI approval can activate benefits for your children under the age of 18, adding up to 50% more income to your monthly payments.

Cost-of-Living Adjustment

The SSA evaluates cost of living allowances annually, which could increase your monthly payment.

Tax Relief

You may not have to pay income taxes on a portion of the SSDI benefit payments you get each month.

Return to Work

There are incentives if you return to work: free help from a certified Employment Network, protection for SSDI income, and more.

Disability Statistics in the US

You’re not alone: 53 million adults have a disability. Over 2 million people apply for SSDI each year and 35% get approved at the initial application level.

Before SSDI

Aid to the Blind was the only federal disability help available.

And After

A total of about 9 million Americans are receiving SSDI benefits.

1 in 4

20-year-olds will become disabled before retirement age.

Federal or State?

Federal funding means SSDI is technically a federal program. But it’s state-run, so the process varies based on where you live.

Back to Work?

10.3%

took advantage of return to work incentives

6.5%

had a working break from benefits

3.7%

found work ended their need for benefits

Disability Statistics in the US

You’re not alone: 53 million adults have a disability. Over 2 million people apply for SSDI each year and 35% get approved at the initial application level.

Before SSDI

Aid to the Blind was the only federal disability help available.

And After

A total of about 9 million Americans are receiving SSDI benefits.

1 in 4

20-year-olds will become disabled before retirement age.

Federal or State?

Federal funding means SSDI is technically a federal program. But it’s state-run, so the process varies based on where you live.

Back to Work?

10.3%

took advantage of return to work incentives

6.5%

had a working break from benefits

3.7%

found work ended their need for benefits

Key SSDI Terms to Know

Learn to speak SSDI, here and now. This glossary of terms includes what’s most important to know, including the legal disability definition that’s used for SSDI.

Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)

This type of judge resolves disputes between the SSA and individuals. If your initial application and reconsideration for SSDI benefits are both denied, the next step in the process is a hearing with an ALJ.

Appeal

If your SSDI application is denied, it is your right to request an official review of the decision. This is considered an appeal, and you can request appeals up to 4 times during the SSDI claims process.

Back Benefits

Because it can take a long time to process SSDI claims, some benefits are paid in a lump sum after approval. These benefits go back as far as 12 months before the date of your initial application, and are sometimes also called retroactive benefits or past-due benefits.

Compassionate Allowance

This program shortens Social Security Disability approval time for people with disabilities that are permanent or often fatal, reducing a lengthy process from months to days.

Date of Entitlement

This is the date that the Social Security Administration determines you will begin receiving SSDI benefit payments. It will be several months after your “onset date,” or the date when your condition began, because a waiting period is required.

Disability

1) SSA legal definition: Inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. 2) Everyday translation: You have a medical condition that prevents you from any type of work for 12 months or more, or result in death.

Disability Determination Services (DDS)

They decide whether or not SSDI applicants are disabled. After reviewing your application, your state’s DDS gathers information from your physicians and may ask you to have an exam with their own physician.

Form SSA-1696

This short form is sent in to the SSA before your SSDI application, and is only needed if you plan to apply with the help of a representative.

Medicare

Federal health insurance for people with disabilities or aged 65 and up. If you’re approved for SSDI, you’ll automatically have Medicare coverage 24 months after your date of entitlement to monthly SSDI payments.

Office of Hearings Operations (OHO)

This branch of the SSA manages appeal hearings for SSDI benefit applicants. When you file a Request for Hearing (the appeal level after Reconsideration), it is sent to your local OHO for assignment to a judge (ALJ).

Reconsideration

If your initial SSDI application is approved, you never take this step. If it’s denied, you have 60 days to file an appeal form requesting reconsideration, or a formal review of your case. Reconsideration is level two in the SSDI benefits claim process, and not offered in some states.

Social Security Administration (SSA)

The federal government agency in charge of programs for retirement, SSDI, SSI, Medicare, and survivors’ benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Wage replacement available to people who cannot work due to long-term medical conditions. Monthly benefits are paid to those who prove they meet the SSA’s strict qualifications.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Like SSDI, this federal program is run by the SSA. It helps people with very limited incomes who are disabled or more than 65 years old. Work history is not a factor for approval, and some states offer added SSI benefits of their own.

Ticket to Work Program

Support for people who receive SSDI or SSI benefits, are between 18-64 years of age, and wish to return to work. This program allows people to go back to work and explore options without losing cash or medical benefits.

Waiting Period

SSDI benefit payments don’t start right away. There is a wait that starts with your “onset date,” or the official date that the SSA determines your disability began. Waiting ends 5 full months after your onset date. So unless your onset date is on the first of the month, your wait is more than 5 months.

The SSDI Process

How long does it take to get SSDI benefits?

Unfortunately, the SSDI process can mean lots of waiting, so make it your goal to get approved as early as possible in the process.

Give careful attention to initial application forms, whether you work on them alone or with a representative’s help. Also consider taking an assessment before you fill out a single blank on your application, to ensure the time you invest in the SSDI process is well spent.

National averages are used for this SSDI process timeline. Your state may be different.

The SSDI Process

How long does it take to get SSDI benefits?

Unfortunately, the SSDI process can mean lots of waiting, so make it your goal to get approved as early as possible in the process.

Give careful attention to initial application forms, whether you work on them alone or with a representative’s help. Also consider taking an assessment before you fill out a single blank on your application, to ensure the time you invest in the SSDI process is well spent.

National averages are used for this SSDI process timeline. Your state may be different.

GOOD TO KNOW

There is a 5-month waiting period for benefits, but if your application process takes longer it doesn’t apply.

Source

GOOD TO KNOW

There is a 5-month waiting period for benefits, but if your application process takes longer it doesn’t apply.

Source

Do you need SSDI help?

Should you apply on your own, hire an attorney, or choose a representative’s online tool? This comparison can help you decide.

Apply on Your Own Hire an Attorney Use a Representative’s Online Tool
Professional knowledge and experience x checkmark checkmark
Option for first-time applicants checkmark Sometimes checkmark
Requires no appointments checkmark x checkmark
Can complete entirely from home x x checkmark
Fees approved by the SSA No Fee checkmark checkmark
Includes help with Medicare choices x Sometimes checkmark
No communication with SSA required x checkmark checkmark
Assistance with appeals x checkmark checkmark
Offers support for return to work x x checkmark

SSDI Application Questions

SSDI application questions aren’t always as simple as they seem. The 3 here get special attention from expert representatives who help applicants file for benefits. This is because these questions often trip people up, and can even be the reason benefits are denied.

This answer can be difficult to pin down if you have multiple conditions related to your disability and multiple dates to consider. It complicates things even more if there were times you attempted to return to work, then realized it wasn’t possible. Expert representatives determine the correct response case-by-case, with additional questions.

This question seems straightforward, but be careful. What you and the SSA see as earnings may not be the same. For instance, you probably see pay for sick or vacation days as earnings. But the SSA does not. The same goes for any payments from a short- or long-term disability plan: not pay, according to the SSA.

Before answering here, consider how and why you prepare meals. Do you do it only when friends or family can’t help by doing it for you? Does it take you a long time and require additional pain medication? Without follow-up questions to determine the full scope of your activity level or severity of your condition(s), your answer could be misinterpreted.

SSDI Application Questions

SSDI application questions aren’t always as simple as they seem. The 3 here get special attention from expert representatives who help applicants file for benefits. This is because these questions often trip people up, and can even be the reason benefits are denied.

This answer can be difficult to pin down if you have multiple conditions related to your disability and multiple dates to consider. It complicates things even more if there were times you attempted to return to work, then realized it wasn’t possible. Expert representatives determine the correct response case-by-case, with additional questions.

This question seems straightforward, but be careful. What you and the SSA see as earnings may not be the same. For instance, you probably see pay for sick or vacation days as earnings. But the SSA does not. The same goes for any payments from a short- or long-term disability plan: not pay, according to the SSA.

Before answering here, consider how and why you prepare meals. Do you do it only when friends or family can’t help by doing it for you? Does it take you a long time and require additional pain medication? Without follow-up questions to determine the full scope of your activity level or severity of your condition(s), your answer could be misinterpreted.

Expert Help for SSDI

Consider empower by Allsup® if you’re worried about filling out an application for SSDI on your own. It’s expert help from professionals who have been assisting people with disabilities and working closely with the SSA, helping to improve the SSDI application process.

empower has 24/7 support and online video guidance every step of the way. It helps you apply smarter, giving you a 50% better chance of first-time approval than applying on your own.

There are no up-front or hidden costs when you apply for SSDI with empower. Only if you’re approved, you’re charged a one-time fee. This fee is limited by the SSA to 25% of your retroactive or back benefits, and can never be more than $6,000.

Watch our 2-minute video for full details about empower, a tool created to help you with your online application for disability.

5 Steps to Apply for SSDI Benefits

Here’s a preview of the steps you take when you apply for SSDI benefits with empower logo

1. Assess

You complete a free assessment to help determine your SSDI eligibility. It was built with 30+ years of SSDI expertise, but your part takes less than 20 minutes.

2. Learn

With online support and video guidance every step of the way, empower helps you apply smarter, giving you a 50% better chance of first-time approval than applying on your own.

3. Sign Up

You fill out a quick, easy form with your name, email address and password to create a secure user profile.

4. Apply

You are guided through the application questionnaire, filling in answers at your own pace. Questions are personalized, based on your individual answers.

5. Relax

Your application forms are reviewed and submitted to the SSA by experts. They also take care of any additional requests and keep you informed along the way.

SSDI Success Stories

It’s a great feeling when you get approved! See what people have said about having expert help with their SSDI applications.

Loading...

Like what you’ve learned? Get even more helpful, expert advice fro SSDI from the publisher of this page.

Stay in touch online.
Share with a friend.
Email