Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides financial aid to Americans with disabilities and several of their family members if qualifications are met. You must have worked a specific number of hours and paid Social Security taxes to be eligible. If you think you qualify, learn how to apply and the amount you could receive to support yourself and your loved ones.

Lindsey Crossmier, writer for RetireGuide
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APA Crossmier, L. (2022, August 2). Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). RetireGuide.com. Retrieved August 14, 2022, from https://www.retireguide.com/retirement-planning/elder-law/social-security-disability-lawyer/ssdi/

MLA Crossmier, Lindsey. "Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)." RetireGuide.com, 2 Aug 2022, https://www.retireguide.com/retirement-planning/elder-law/social-security-disability-lawyer/ssdi/.

Chicago Crossmier, Lindsey. "Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)." RetireGuide.com. Last modified August 2, 2022. https://www.retireguide.com/retirement-planning/elder-law/social-security-disability-lawyer/ssdi/.

What Is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

SSDI is a part of the Social Security program that pays monthly benefits to employees who can no longer work due to a serious injury or disability. The injury or disability must be expected to last a year or until death to qualify for SSDI. You cannot qualify for SSDI if you have a short-term disability.

As of May 2022, there are currently almost 18.3 million beneficiaries for SSDI. This includes the main beneficiary and qualifying family members.

Family Members Who Can Also Qualify for Your Benefits
  • Your spouse if they are over 62 years old
  • Your spouse, at any age, if they are caring for a child of yours that is younger than 16 or has a disability
  • Your unmarried child, stepchild or grandchild, including those that are adopted, if they are under 18 years old
  • Your unmarried child over age 18 if they have a disability that developed before they turned 22; The disability must meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability for adults
Source: Social Security Administration

According to a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four adults have a disability. The survey was conducted among 61.4 million candidates. With a high probability for older adults to acquire a disability, it’s important to know your eligibility options to help protect yourself and your family.

Eligibility and Work Credits

To be eligible for SSDI, you must have a disability or illness that matches the Social Security Administration’s official definition of a disability. The disability must persist your entire life, or at least one year. The Social Security Administration has a list of adult disabilities that would qualify someone for SSDI.

Social Security Administration’s Definition of Disability
According to the Social Security Administration’s Code of Federal Regulations, the law defines having a disability as a severe impairment that doesn’t allow you to do past relevant work or any other substantial work that exists in the national economy.

You also must have worked a job covered by Social Security for a specific number of years, which fluctuates depending on the age you became disabled. The amount of work required is determined by the calendar quarter and your age. This is clarified in the Disability Benefits Factsheet provided by the Social Security Administration.

Your work credits are based on your total yearly wages. You need a specific number of credits to qualify for SSDI, which depends on your age.

Estimated Age and Years of Work Needed to Qualify For SSDI
If you become disabled Then you typically need
Before you turn 281.5 years of work
At age 302 years of work
At age 343 years of work
At age 384 years of work
At age 425 years of work
At age 445.5 years of work
At age 466 years of work
At age 486.5 years of work
At age 507 years of work
At age 527.5 years of work
At age 548 years of work
At age 568.5 years of work
At age 589 years of work
At age 609.5 years of work
Source: The Social Security Administration

Typically, the younger you are, the less credits you need. You can earn up to four credits each year. In 2022, you earn one credit for each $1,510 in wages.

Who Pays for SSDI?

SSDI is paid by workers and employers as a part of their Social Security taxes. The tax rate is 6.2% in 2022. If your wage is $147,000, then you would contribute $9,114, and your employer would contribute the same amount. If you’re self-employed, the tax rate is much higher, at 12.4%.

Common Reasons to Receive SSDI

Several conditions can lead older adults to apply for SSDI. Below is a list of conditions that many SSDI beneficiaries have.

Qualified Conditions For SSDI
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Paralysis
  • Strokes
  • Severe arthritis
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Huntington disease

According to the CDC’s study with 61 participants, mobility and cognition disabilities are the most common.

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How Do You Apply for SSDI?

You can apply for SSDI online or call 1-800-772-1213. You’ll have to make a Social Security account to apply and provide identification information.

General Information Needed for SSDI Online Application
  • W-2
  • Tax forms
  • Information from doctors or healthcare professionals that verify your disability or injury
  • Bank routing number and account number
  • Names of your medications and conditions
Source: Social Security Administration

If you plan to apply online, you should have all your information prepared to avoid delays.

What Happens If Your Application Is Denied?

If your SSDI application is denied, there are two different routes you can take to be reconsidered. Whichever route you choose depends on the reason you were denied.

If you were denied for medical reasons, you can file an appeal on the Social Security Administration website. You’ll need to provide additional information to be reconsidered.

If you were denied for non-medical reasons, you should contact your local Social Security Office instead. You can also contact 1-800-772-1213 if you’re unable to get online. Those who are hard of hearing can call 1-800-325-0778 instead.

If you’re having additional issues with your application, you should hire a social security disability lawyer to help you with the process. They are familiar with complex elder laws that could potentially help streamline your application for acceptance.

Filing an Appeal

When filing a SSDI appeal online you’ll need to provide additional proof of your disability or injury. Contact your doctor to obtain information, such as medical or treatment records. Know that it could take up to 60 minutes to complete the disability appeal application. You can save your process and return as needed once you have the correct information.

Alternative to SSDI

If you get denied SSDI due to having a short-term disability, you should not file an appeal. SSDI is only for those suffering from a disability for at least a year or until death. However, there is an alternative option to receive benefits for your short-term disability — state-sponsored disability plans.

State-sponsored disability plans offer temporary benefits for those suffering from a severe disability. In 2022, five states offer these plans.

5 States That Offer State-Sponsored Disability Plans
  • California
  • Hawaii
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Rhode Island

Keep in mind that each state has different eligibility guidelines and qualifications, including how long you have worked for your employer, how long you must be disabled, and what percentage of your salary is payable by the benefit plan. Refer to your state’s official website to get more information and to apply.

Some states call their state-sponsored disability plan a different name. For example, New Jersey calls their plan the Division of Temporary Disability and Family Leave Insurance. Rhode Island calls it Temporary Disability/Caregiver Insurance. Essentially, if one of the five states that offers a temporary benefit due to being disabled — that is their state-sponsored disability plan.

If your disability is not short term, you shouldn’t consider this option. You’re more likely to get a higher benefit amount if you apply for SSDI instead.

How Much SSDI Benefits Can You Receive?

As of June 2022, the average amount to receive from SSDI benefits is $1,361.88, according to the Social Security Administration. The maximum benefit amount is $3,345.

The benefits you receive from SSDI are calculated the same way as Social Security retirement benefits. Both are based on your recorded work income on which you paid Social Security taxes. This means, there is no set amount of SSDI benefits — the amount depends on your income and taxes paid.

Tax Implications

Tax implications of SSDI vary depending on your income. The more you make, the more taxable your SSDI will be.

Tax Implications with SSDI
If you’re filing single and make less than $25,000 None of your SSDI is taxable
If you’re married, filing jointly, and make under $32,000None of your SSDI is taxable
If you’re filing single and make more than $34,00050% to 85% of your SSDI is taxable
If you’re married, filing jointly, and make over $44,00050% to 85% of your SSDI is taxable
Source: Social Security Administration

When Is SSDI Paid to You?

There isn’t one day that everyone gets paid their SSDI benefit. Your SSDI payment date depends on the day you were born.

SSDI Payment Schedule in 2022
If your birthday falls between theYou’ll receive SSDI benefits on the
1st and 10th of the month2nd Wednesday of every month
11th and 20th of the month3rd Wednesday of every month
21st and last day of the month4th Wednesday of every month
Source: Social Security Administration

Keep in mind that there is a five-month waiting period for SSDI benefits, so you should apply right away. Your waiting period begins the first full month after you’re deemed eligible and approved.

Special Considerations

While most situations that warrant SSDI follow the strict definition of disability and requirements, there are some special situations that are more flexible. You could still qualify for SSDI.

Special Considerations for SSDI
If you’re blind or have low vision
Even if you don’t meet the legal definition of blindness, you could still qualify for SSDI. You should consider applying if your vision severely impacts your ability to work.
If you are a worker’s widow or widower
If you lost your spouse due to their disability or injury, you could receive their benefits. To qualify, you must be between 50 to 60 years old.
Benefits for children with disabilities
Children receiving benefits as a minor on a parent’s Social Security may continue to receive benefits if they have a qualifying disability once age 18.
Last Modified: August 2, 2022

13 Cited Research Articles

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  2. AARP. (2022, March 8). How Are Social Security Disability Benefits Calculated? Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/retirement/social-security/info-2021/ssdi-benefit-calculation.html
  3. Social Security Administration. (2022, January). Schedule of Social Security Benefit Payments 2022. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10031-2022.pdf
  4. Social Security Administration. (2022). Disability Benefits | How You Qualify. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/qualify.html
  5. Social Security Administration. (2022). Contribution And Benefit Base. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/cbb.html#:~:text=The%20OASDI%20tax%20rate%20for,would%20contribute%20the%20same%20amount
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