Social Security Disability Benefits

There are two main types of Social Security Disability programs — Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). While both programs provide qualifying individuals with a steady monthly income, SSI and SSDI are not the same. Each program has different eligibility criteria, waiting periods, funding and average benefit amounts. Learn more about SSI and SSDI to see if you qualify, along with average benefit amounts for 2023.

  • Written by
    Lindsey Crossmier

    Lindsey Crossmier

    Financial Writer

    Lindsey Crossmier is an accomplished writer with experience working for The Florida Review and Bookstar PR. As a financial writer, she covers Medicare, life insurance and dental insurance topics for RetireGuide. Research-based data drives her work.

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    Lamia Chowdhury
    Lamia Chowdhury, editor for RetireGuide.com

    Lamia Chowdhury

    Financial Editor

    Lamia Chowdhury is a financial content editor for RetireGuide and has over three years of marketing experience in the finance industry. She has written copy for both digital and print pieces ranging from blogs, radio scripts and search ads to billboards, brochures, mailers and more.

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    Brandon Renfro, Ph.D., CFP®, RICP®, EA
    Brandon Renfro, RetireGuide Reviewer

    Brandon Renfro, Ph.D., CFP®, RICP®, EA

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    Brandon Renfro is a Retirement and Social Security Expert and financial planner. He focuses on helping clients create a secure financial future in retirement and co-owns Belonging Wealth Management. He is also a former finance professor and writes for several publications.

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  • Published: March 3, 2023
  • Updated: October 6, 2023
  • 9 min read time
  • This page features 14 Cited Research Articles
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How to Cite RetireGuide.com's Article

APA Crossmier, L. (2023, October 6). Social Security Disability Benefits. RetireGuide.com. Retrieved July 12, 2024, from https://www.retireguide.com/social-security/disability-benefits/

MLA Crossmier, Lindsey. "Social Security Disability Benefits." RetireGuide.com, 6 Oct 2023, https://www.retireguide.com/social-security/disability-benefits/.

Chicago Crossmier, Lindsey. "Social Security Disability Benefits." RetireGuide.com. Last modified October 6, 2023. https://www.retireguide.com/social-security/disability-benefits/.

Key Takeaways
  • The two main types of Social Security disability benefits are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
  • The average Social Security disability benefit is projected to be $1,623 a month in 2023.
  • The Social Security Administration has a definition of disability that must be met if you want to qualify for SSI or SSDI (due to a disability).
  • You can receive both SSI and SSDI in specific instances.

What Are Social Security Disability Benefits?

Social Security disability benefits provide monthly income replacement for disabled individuals who can no longer work due to their condition. According to the World Health Organization, one in six people worldwide develop a serious disability in their lifetime. As of December 2022, 11.5% of Social Security beneficiaries are disabled workers.

The average Social Security disability benefit was $1,483 in December of 2022. Disability benefits receive a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) each year to account for inflation. In 2023, the COLA increased to 8.7%. The Social Security Administration projects average disability benefits to increase by at least $140 in 2023, due to the COLA.

Adding $140 to the average disability benefit from December 2022 can give you the projected average disability benefit amount in 2023 — which would be $1,623 a month.

Types of Social Security Disability Benefits

There are two main types of Social Security Benefits — Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSI is for older adults or children with a disability or blindness, who also have lower incomes and resources. SSDI is for disabled individuals who have a qualifying work history and are unable to continue working due to their disability.

There are several key factors to keep in mind when comparing SSI and SSDI.

SSI vs. SSDI Comparison
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
Eligibility
  • You must have one of the three conditions below to qualify for SSI
    • Have a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of disability
    • Be deaf or hard of hearing
    • Be over 65 years old
  • AND you must have limited income and resources
  • Have a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of disability
  • Worked a specific number of years with a job covered by Social Security
Average monthly benefit amount for 2023 $914 for an individual or $1,371 for an individual with an eligible spouse*$1,623
Is there a waiting period to start receiving benefits?NoYes, there is a five-month waiting period
Health Insurance Coverage Provided Medicaid Medicare
What Is the Difference Between SSI and SSDI?

*These are the maximum monthly Federal amounts for SSI in 2023, and your monthly benefit amount can vary.

While SSI and SSDI are different programs, the medical requirements to be considered disabled to qualify are the same. The Social Security Administration has a definition of disability that must be met if you want to qualify for SSI or SSDI (due to a disability).

What is the definition of disability?
Disability is the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or have lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

How They’re Funded

Each Social Security disability program is funded through different sources. The SSI program is funded through general tax revenues — not your Social Security taxes.

The SSDI program is funded through your payroll taxes. To receive SSDI benefits, you must have worked for a specific number of years and have contributed to the Social Security trust fund in the form of Social Security taxes.

In 2023, when you work, about 15 cents goes to a trust fund that covers SSDI benefits to people with disabilities and their families.

How Each Disability Program Is Funded
SSISSDI
General Tax RevenueSocial Security Trust Fund (through payroll taxes)
Learn About How Disability Benefits Are Taxed

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI provides low-income individuals that are either aged, blind or disabled with a monthly benefit to offer financial stability. You must be a U.S. citizen and not confined to an institution to qualify. As of 2023, SSI provides benefits to over 7 million individuals.

“SSI does not have a waiting period, but your earliest cash benefit date is the date that you applied. This is known as your Protective Filing Date,” Travis Price, a Disability Case Consultant told RetireGuide.

Eligibility Requirements To Qualify for SSI
  • Be blind, disabled or aged (over 65 years old) AND have a low income and resources
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Not be confined to an institution (like a hospital)

When considering income, SSI separates income limits into two categories — earned and unearned. Earned income is your wages and net earnings from self-employment.

Unearned income refers to money from your Social Security benefits, workers compensation, unemployment, rent and other income that isn’t earned. Your limit for unearned income for an individual is less than $934 a month, or $1,391 for a couple, in 2023.

It’s also noteworthy to mention that SSI can provide financial aid if you’re experiencing homelessness. SSI can help you get housing by providing you monthly payments, even if you don’t currently have a residence.

SSI does not have a waiting period, but your earliest cash benefit date is the date that you applied. This is known as your Protective Filing Date.
Travis Price, Disability Case Consultant

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI provides monthly benefits to disabled workers who have paid taxes long enough to earn enough credits to qualify. You earn credits by working. In 2023, you earn one credit for each $1,640 in wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits in one year.

Generally, you need 40 credits to qualify. However, you can qualify for SSDI with less credits if you’re younger.

Qualifying for SSDI Benefits
  • You must have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability.
  • You’ll need a specific number of work credits to qualify for SSDI. The number of credits you need depends on your age.
What is the SSDI 5 Year Rule?

Unlike SSI, there is a waiting period to receive your benefits for SSDI. “The standard waiting period for SSDI approval cash benefits is 5 full months. For example, if you are approved on July 13, 2022, you would not receive benefits until Jan. 1, 2023. July 2022 is not a full month, so your waiting period starts in August,” Travis Price, a Disability Case Consultant told RetireGuide.

You should also refer to the Social Security’s disability evaluation list to see if your disability qualifies. The list consists of musculoskeletal disorders, respiratory disorders, mental disorders and more. Even if you don’t see your condition listed, it is still possible to be approved for SSDI benefits, though it will likely be a lengthier process.

The standard waiting period for SSDI approval cash benefits is 5 full months. For example, if you are approved on July 13, 2022, you would not receive benefits until Jan. 1, 2023. July 2022 is not a full month, so your waiting period starts in August.
Travis Price, Disability Case Consultant
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Temporary vs. Long-Term Disability Benefits

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, short-term disability insurance commonly covers around 80% of your income, while long-term benefits cover closer to 60%.

The Social Security Administration does not provide benefits for those with a short-term disability. They only provide benefits for long-term disabilities that meet their strict definition of disability.

However, this does not mean you’re out of luck if you have a temporary disability. There are state programs and insurers who can provide you with benefits if needed. For example, the State of California’s Department of Industrial Relations has a temporary disability benefit that will cover two-thirds of your gross pre-tax wages you lost or will lose while recovering from a job injury.

However, not all states have short-term disability benefits. Only New York, California and Rhode Island are legally required to offer all employees short-term disability coverage.

Temporary vs. Long-Term Disability Benefits
Temporary Disability Benefits Long-Term Disability Benefits
  • Social Security does not provide temporary benefits
  • Coverage lasts a few weeks up to a year max in specific instances
  • Must have qualifying disability
  • Only some states are required to offer temporary disability benefits
  • Known to cover up to 80% of your income
  • Coverage can last from two years up to your retirement
  • Must have qualifying disability
  • Known to cover up to 60% of your income
Source: U.S. Chamber of Commerce

How To Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

You can apply for Social Security benefits in one of three ways — apply online, call the Social Security office or find a local Social Security office near you and apply in person. Make sure you apply as soon as possible to avoid delays in benefits.

Ways To Apply for Disability Benefits
To apply online
Visit the Social Security’s website to apply online
Resources to call to apply
1-800-772-1213
TTY 1-800-325-0778 if you’re deaf or hard of hearing
Local Social Security office
The Social Security Administration has an office locator tool to help you find an office closest to you

Before applying, make sure you have all needed documents. The Social Security Administration has a checklist you should review before starting your disability application.

Documents and Information To Gather Before Applying for Disability Benefits
  • Birth Certificate or other proof of birth document
  • Your Social Security number
  • Names and dates of birth of your children and spouse
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status
  • W-2 forms or self-employment tax returns from the past year
  • Medical Evidence of your disability
  • Pay stubs
  • Direct deposit information, like your account and bank routing number

Travis Price, a Disability Case Consultant, spoke to RetireGuide about possible scenarios that could hinder your application process. “Sometimes people give too much information that does not help their case but has to be developed. For example, they may go to the doctor for a standard follow-up, but no new treatment or conditions arise from that visit. Reporting that information to Social Security requires that the Disability Examiner request that information. On average, requesting additional medical records can add an additional 30-90 days of processing time to your claim,” Price told RetireGuide.

Generally, it should take three to five months to get a response back from Social Security to see if your disability application was approved or not.

Sometimes people give too much information that does not help their case but has to be developed. For example, they may go to the doctor for a standard follow-up, but no new treatment or conditions arise from that visit. Reporting that information to Social Security requires that the Disability Examiner request that information. On average, requesting additional medical records can add an additional 30-90 days of processing time to your claim.
Travis Price, Disability Case Consultant

Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability Benefits

Can you receive both SSI and SSDI?
Yes — you can receive SSI and SSDI at the same time. If you’re eligible for both, the Social Security Administration describes you as being “concurrent”.
What happens if your application for disability benefits is rejected?
If your disability benefits application was rejected, you can appeal the decision online or call the Social Security Administration. The toll-free number is 1-800-772-1213 to request an appeal. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing, call 1-800-325-0778 instead.
Does Social Security offer housing assistance benefits?
Social Security offers multiple types of housing assistance. If you’re receiving SSI benefits, you could potentially receive subsidized housing. If you’re struggling to find housing, you could receive the maximum SSI amount payable in your state.
How long do disability benefits last?
Your disability benefits generally last as long as your medical condition hasn’t improved and you’re still unable to work.
Last Modified: October 6, 2023

14 Cited Research Articles

  1. Social Security Administration. (2023, January). Understanding the Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10024.pdf
  2. Social Security Administration. (2023). SSI Federal Payment Amounts for 2023. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/SSI.html
  3. World Health Organization. (2022, December 2). Disability. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/disability-and-health
  4. Social Security Administration. (2022, December). Benefits Paid by Type of Beneficiary. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/ProgData/icp.html
  5. Nesbit, J. (2022, October 13). Social Security Benefits Increase in 2023. Retrieved from https://blog.ssa.gov/social-security-benefits-increase-in-2023
  6. Fraraccio, M. (2022, August 25). Short-Term vs. Long-Term Disability: What’s the Difference? Retrieved from https://www.uschamber.com/co/run/finance/short-term-vs-long-term-disability
  7. Social Security Administration. (2022). SSI Spotlight on Living Arrangements. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/spotlights/spot-living-arrangements.htm
  8. Social Security Administration. (2022). Understanding Supplemental Security Income SSI Eligibility Requirements. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-eligibility-ussi.htm
  9. Bystry, D. (2021, August 12). Understanding Social Security Disability Benefits. Retrieved from https://blog.ssa.gov/understanding-social-security-disability-benefits/
  10. State of California Department of Industrial Relations. (2012, July). Temporary Disability Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/TemporaryDisability.htm
  11. Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Disability Evaluation Under Social Security. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/general-info.htm
  12. Social Security Administration. (n.d.). How You Apply. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/apply.html
  13. Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Overview of Our Disability Programs. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/redbook/eng/overview-disability.htm?tl=1%2C2%2C3
  14. Social Security Administration. (n.d.). What You Should Know Before You Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/disability/Documents/Factsheet-AD.pdf