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What is Social Security Disability Insurance?

Social Social Security Disability Insurance is a social safety net program administered by the Social Security Administration. Founded in 1956 for people over the age of fifty, and later expanded to include younger disabled workers, its purpose is to provide a steady source of income for people who are no longer able to work because of disabilities. An important thing to note is that Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is different from Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This article will focus on SSDI, and not SSI.

Who is Eligible to Receive SSDI?

There are two main considerations that the Social Security Administration (SSA) takes into account when determining eligibility for SSDI:

  1. The applicant’s work history: First, the SSA considers the applicant’s work history. The applicant has to have worked long enough, and recently enough, to be eligible for SSDI. The applicant’s work history is measured by the number of “work credits” he or she has earned at jobs covered by Social Security. According to the Social Security Administration, the amount of income that equals one work credit changes. For 2014, the SSA has determined that each $1,200 of wages equals one work credit. Every worker is eligible to earn up to four work credits a year, so after earning $4800 in income (either by working for someone else, or being self-employed), the worker has earned his or her maximum number of work credits.
  2. The nature of the disability: Another factor is the age at which the disability occurs. In general, workers need a lifetime total of forty work credits in order to be elibible for SSDI, and twenty of these credits must have been earned in the ten years immediately before the disability occured. But the specific amount of work credits that each worker will need to qualify for SSDI depends on the worker’s age at the time that the disability occured. Younger workers may be able to get SSDI with fewer work credits. Also, disabled widows or widowers between the ages of fifty and sixty may also be eligible, if their spouses accumuulated enough work credits.

As well as having enough work credits, anyone applying for SSDI must be able to demonstrate that his or her disability meets the Social Security Administration’s definition of a disability. Here are the criteria, as defined by the SSA:

  • The disability must be permanent and complete. SSDI does not cover temporary or partial disabilities.
  • The disability must be documented to have begun a year ago, or is expected to endure for more than a year.
  • The applicant is unable to perform the work that he or she did prior to becoming disabled.
  • The applicant cannot do any other type of work, due to the disability.

The SSA will also check to see if the applicant’s condition is found on their list of disabling conditions. If it isn’t, the SSA will decide whether the applicant’s condition is severe enough to be considered a permanent disability.

How to Apply for SSDI

There are three ways to apply for SSDI: