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Social Security Disability: What You Should Know

Social Security Disability (SSD) is a vital government program designed to provide financial assistance to individuals who are unable to work due to a severe medical condition. Administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), SSD aims to ensure that disabled individuals can maintain a certain level of income and access essential resources. This comprehensive guide will cover what SSD is, eligibility criteria, the application process, and other essential information to help you understand and navigate the program effectively.

What is Social Security Disability?

Social Security Disability is a federal program that provides financial support to eligible individuals who suffer from a qualifying disability that prevents them from engaging in substantial gainful activity. It operates under two programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): SSDI benefits disabled individuals who have paid Social Security taxes through their work history. The amount of benefits is based on the individual's past earnings, and their dependents may also receive benefits in some instances.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI, on the other hand, is a needs-based program intended for low-income individuals who are disabled, blind, or aged 65 and older. Eligibility is determined based on financial need rather than work history.

Eligibility for Social Security Disability

To qualify for SSD benefits, applicants must meet specific criteria set forth by the SSA. The primary eligibility requirements include:

  • Medical Eligibility: The applicant must have a medical condition that meets the SSA's definition of a disability. This condition should be expected to last at least 12 months or result in death. The SSA maintains a comprehensive "Blue Book" that lists impairments considered eligible for benefits.
  • Work Credits: For SSDI, applicants must have accumulated sufficient work credits by paying Social Security taxes over their employment history. The number of credits required depends on the age at which the disability occurred.
  • Income and Resource Limits: Applicants must meet strict income and resource limits to qualify for SSI. The SSA considers income from all sources, including earned and unearned income, and available resources such as bank accounts and property.

The Application Process

Applying for Social Security Disability benefits can be a complex and time-consuming process. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you through it:

  • Gather Relevant Information: Before starting the application, collect all necessary documentation, including medical records, work history, and financial information.
  • Complete the Application: You can apply for SSD benefits online at the SSA's website or by scheduling an appointment at your local Social Security office. Be prepared to provide detailed information about your medical condition, work history, and income.
  • Medical Evaluation: The SSA will review your medical records and may request additional examinations or evaluations to assess your disability and its impact on your ability to work.
  • Decision and Appeals: The SSA will inform you of their decision regarding your application. If your claim is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision within a specified timeframe.

Waiting Period and Retroactive Benefits

It is important to note that SSD benefits are not paid immediately upon approval. There is typically a five-month waiting period from the date of disability onset before payments begin. Additionally, if you are eligible for SSDI, you may receive retroactive benefits up to 12 months before the application date, provided you can prove your disability during that period.

Continuing Eligibility and Reviews

Once you receive SSD benefits, the SSA will conduct periodic reviews to assess your continued eligibility. These reviews ensure that your medical condition still meets the disability requirements and that you have not engaged in substantial gainful activity.

Additional Resources

Understanding the complexities of Social Security Disability can be challenging. Here are some additional resources that can help:

  • Local Social Security Office: For specific questions and assistance, contact your nearest Social Security office.
  • SSA Website: Visit the official SSA website for detailed information, forms, and online services.
  • Disability Advocates: Consider seeking assistance from disability advocates or attorneys experienced in SSD cases to navigate the application and appeals process.


Social Security Disability is a lifeline for individuals who face significant limitations due to disabling conditions. This guide has provided an overview of SSD, eligibility criteria, the application process, and other essential information. Remember, the process can be complex, so do not hesitate to seek help if needed. With the correct information and guidance, you can better navigate the system and access the benefits you rightfully deserve.

Contact the Law Offices of Wax & Wax to learn more.