Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal government program designed to protect workers against the loss of ability to earn an income due to complete disability. To apply for SSDI, your condition must meet the SSA's disability requirements and you needed to have earned enough work credits.

It is compulsory that all employees and employers contribute to the program. Both the workers and employers pay into the program through the FICA tax.

SSDI – How to Qualify

In order to qualify for SSDI benefits, you must demonstrate that you are unable to perform any work which you have previously performed. You must also be able to prove that there is no work available for which you could reasonably be trained given your age, education level and degree of physical and mental fitness.

Additionally, in order to qualify for SSDI, you need to have worked at a job during which you paid into the Social Security system in the past ten years.

The number of years you need to have worked varies according to your age, but most applicants (especially applicants under 50), you will need to have worked at least five years out of the last ten.

SSDI – How to Apply

You should apply for SSDI as soon as you have reason to believe you may have a long term disability. In order to be approved for SSDI, you will need to demonstrate that your disability is expected to last at least one year or that it is expected to be life ending. You should review the Blue Book to make sure you meet the medical qualifications of the condition you are experiencing.

You will also need to demonstrate that you are unable to perform any work which would be categorized as substantial gainful activity.

It is important to make your intent to file a claim known to the Social Security Administration (SSA) if you even suspect that you might be permanently disabled. This is because your protective filing date will be determined by when you first notified the SSA of your intent to file.

There is nothing lost if you file an intent to claim Social Security Disability but then don’t need to actually file for SSDI because your condition improves, but you could lose out on a considerable amount of back pay if you don’t make your intent to file known when you are first injured or otherwise disabled.

You should prepare yourself for a lengthy process while applying for Social Security Disability benefits. Most initial claims are denied. If your claim is denied, don’t let this discourage you.

Many claims which are denied on the first pass are later accepted during the appeals process.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI – How to Appeal a Denial

If your initial claim is denied (and they are more often than not), your next step is to file a request for a reconsideration.

During the reconsideration stage, the SSA will take a look at all of the evidence presented (including any new evidence you are able to present) and will rule again based upon your medical records and claim forms.

If your request for reconsideration is also denied, you will have the opportunity to present your case in a disability hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

The hearing is usually the best chance claimants have of having their claims approved. This is, in part, because it is their only real opportunity to present their case, face to face before a Social Security representative who will make his decision on your disability claim.

If your claim is still denied after the hearing, you can request that the decision be reviewed by the Appeals Council.

The Appeals Council will check the facts of your case to make sure that the Administrative Law Judge considered all of the evidence presented in accordance with the law. They may then uphold the Administrative Law Judge’s decision, they may send it back to the Administrative Law Judge will additional instructions, or they may overturn the ALJ’s decision.

If you still have not received a favorable decision after your claim has been reviewed by the Appeals Council, you still have one recourse. You can request a Federal Court review, although this very rarely pursued by claimants. Fortunately, most Social Security Disability cases don’t need to go that far.

Most disability claims which are accepted at the hearing level.

How Much Does Social Security Pay If You Are Disabled?

If you are approved for Social Security disability benefits, the amount of money that you are approved to receive will be different from the amount that others receive. The amount of money that you will receive if you are receiving Social Security disability benefits depends on several different factors. The maximum amount that Social Security disability benefits pay per month in 2024 is $1,550. But you may receive less than that.

When the Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates what your benefit will be, they look at the amount of money you’ve earned in the past as well as what your earnings were at the time you became disabled. They also look at whether or not you are receiving other benefits like:

  • Workers' compensation
  • Public disability benefits
  • Pension based on work not covered by Social Security, such as a government or foreign government pension.

Typically, the formula that the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses to determine what the amount of someone’s disability benefit should be is:

  • 90% of the first $1,115 of your average indexed monthly earnings, plus
  • 32% of your average indexed monthly earnings over $1,115 and through $6,721, plus
  • 15% of your average indexed monthly earnings over $6,721.

If you are receiving other types of benefits, the SSA may reduce the amount of your benefit payment so that your total income from all the benefits that you receive doesn’t exceed a certain amount. You can calculate the exact benefit amount you should qualify for here.

Hire a Social Security Disability Attorney

You are allowed to have a disability lawyer or other legal representative help you with any and all parts of the application and appeals process for Social Security Disability benefits.

An attorney will be very knowledgeable about the process and will be able to save you a great deal of time and stress. Statistics have shown that, having a disability attorney help you with your claim significantly increases you chances of having your disability claim approved.

Additional Resources