Frequently Asked Questions About SSDI

What are the eligibility requirements for Social Security Disability benefits?

To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you must have worked long enough in jobs covered by Social Security (usually 10 years but it could be a shorter period for younger claimants). Then, you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of disability.

In general, the Social Security Administration pays monthly benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more or who have a condition expected to end in death. The disability must be so severe that the worker cannot work, considering age, education and experience.

How long does it take to get a decision on Social Security Disability benefits?

Applications can be processed in as little as a month or as much as two years. That's why it's important to file your application as soon (and as thoroughly) as possible, to start a process that can sometimes move very slowly.

What is the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD or SSDI) is available to workers who have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits in jobs that pay into the Social Security system. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, on the other hand, are available to low-income people who have not earned sufficient work credits to qualify for SSDI, including those who have never worked.

The Social Security Administration runs both programs and medical eligibility is established in the same ways for both programs.

Can I return to work while getting Social Security benefits?

Yes. There are special rules that determine when a person can work and receive SSDI benefits concurrently. If you receive Social Security benefits and return to work, you must report this to the Social Security Administration.

What happens if my Social Security Disability benefits application is denied?

In many cases, the initial application is only the first step in the process. Denied applications are common, often because the applicant has not sufficiently documented his or her disability and how it affects the ability to work.

If your application is denied, it is possible to file an appeal and get a second look at your application.

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