Social security disability insurance eligibility requirements

Social Security Disability Insurance – The Unicorn of Disability Insurance

Many people believe that social security disability insurance (SSDI) will pay out cash benefits if they’re unable to earn a paycheck. The truth is – only 36% of SSDI applicants ever get approved. You’re more likely to find a unicorn in the forest than you are an SSDI check in the mail. However, knowing the social security disability insurance eligibility requirements and applying early will improve your chances of getting approved.


There are two types of social security disability insurance: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Social Security Administration manages both programs and both require a medical need for eligibility but that’s where the similarities stop. SSDI is only available to those who have worked and contributed via payroll taxes. On the other hand, SSI is an income and asset-based program and eligibility is not based on your work history. To qualify for Supplemental Security Income, your income cannot exceed $735 per month ($1,103 for couples)1.

Social Security Disability Insurance Eligibility Requirements

Financial Eligibility Requirements

You’ve probably noticed the FICA Social Security Tax deduction on the bottom of your paycheck. That is the amount you pay into the Social Security program every paycheck. A portion of this tax goes towards the SSDI program. After a certain number of years paying in to the system, you’ll have earned enough work credits to be financially eligible for SSDI. Work credits are based on the number of years you’ve worked. As of 2016, you have to earn $1,300 to earn one work credit.

Medical Eligibility Requirements

Aside from financial eligibility requirements, you must also have a qualifying medical condition to receive social security disability benefits. There are quite a few medical conditions or impairments that qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance. Some of the more common medical conditions include back injuries, cardiovascular conditions (heart failure, coronary artery disease, etc.), respiratory illnesses (asthma, COPD, etc.), vision and hearing loss, mental disorders, etc.

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance

Approved SSDI Disability ClaimAs with many government programs, the application process can be tedious. Luckily, the Social Security folks have made applying for Social Security Disability Insurance easier (for most applicants) with an online process. Aside from the basic info – name name, date, social security number – you’ll also need to provide information about your medical condition including diagnosis, doctor contact information, patient ID numbers, list of prescriptions, etc.

Oh yeah… and don’t forget the information about your work history! Social security disability insurance is based on your income. You’ll need to provide details about your income and the name and address of your current employer. The Social Security Administration will also need a list of your employers for the 15 years prior to when your disability began. You should try to gather all the stuff you’ll need prior to applying for benefits, however, you can stop and save the application and come back later if you’re missing something. The Social Security Administration created this Checklist For Online Adult Disability Application (PDF) which lists everything you’ll need to apply for social security disability insurance.

Social Security Administration – Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program

Social Security Administration – Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program Outcomes of Applications for Disability Insurance

An Accident Caused Disability and Financial Hardships for Joshua’s Family

An accident at work left Joshua without the use of his legs, and left his family with tremendous financial strain.

“Being in my twenties at the time of the accident, protecting myself from disability was not on my mind.”

Ever since he was young, Joshua had a talent for mechanical work. After graduating from high school, Joshua soon found work at a local elevator repair company and he quickly mastered the trade and excelled in his job.

One day, after five and a half years on the job, a dumbwaiter fell on him, dropping more than 700 pounds onto his back. At first he was not in a lot of pain, but he soon lost feeling in his legs and was rush to the emergency room.

At the hospital, doctors confirmed Joshua’s initial fears-he had suffered a total spinal injury and would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

While he has been aided by workers’ compensation, his disability has had significant financial stress on his family. After the accident, his mother temporarily left work to take care of him, further lowering the family’s income during a time in which medical expenses were rapidly piling up. It took three years until-through tremendous determination, rehabilitation, and a positive spirit-Joshua was finally able to get around on his own.

Looking back on the accident, Joshua says, “You never know from one day to the next what will happen.” He continues, “Being in my twenties at the time of the accident, protecting myself from disability was not on my mind. Protecting yourself from a disability should be on everyone’s mind, regardless of age.”

Source: Council for Disability Insurance