Disability is something most people do not like to think about. But the chances that you will become disabled probably are greater than you realize. Studies show that a 20-year-old worker has a 3-in-10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching full retirement age.
This booklet provides basic information on Social Security disability benefits and is not intended to answer all questions. For specific information about your situation, you should talk with a Social Security representative.
We pay disability benefits through two programs: the Social Security disability insurance program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. This booklet is about the Social Security disability program. For information about the SSI disability program for adults, see Supplemental Security Income (SSI) (Publication No. 05-11000). For information about disability programs for children, refer to Benefits For Children With Disabilities (Publication No. 05-10026). Our publications are available online at www.socialsecurity.gov.
Who can get Social Security disability benefits?
Social Security pays benefits to people who cannot work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Federal law requires this very strict definition of disability. While some programs give money to people with partial disability or short-term disability, Social Security does not.
Certain family members of disabled workers also can receive money from Social Security.
How do I meet the earnings requirement for disability benefits?
In general, to get disability benefits, you must meet two different earnings tests:
- A “recent work” test based on your age at the time you became disabled; and
- A “duration of work” test to show that you worked long enough under Social Security.
Certain blind workers have to meet only the “duration of work” test.
The following table shows the rules for how much work you need for the “recent work” test based on your age when your disability began. The rules in this table are based on the calendar quarter in which you turned or will turn a certain age.
The calendar quarters are:
First Quarter: January 1 through March 31;
Second Quarter: April 1 through June 30;
Third Quarter: July 1 through September 30; and
Fourth Quarter: October 1 through December 31.
The following table shows examples of how much work you need to meet the “duration of work test” if you become disabled at various selected ages. For the “duration of work” test, your work does not have to fall within a certain period of time.
NOTE: This table does not cover all situations.
How do I apply for disability benefits?
There are two ways that you can apply for disability benefits. You can:
- Apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov; or
- Call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, to make an appointment to file a disability claim at your local Social Security office or to set up an appointment for someone to take your claim over the telephone. The disability claims interview lasts about one hour. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may call our toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on business days. If you schedule an appointment, we will send you a Disability Starter Kit to help you get ready for your disability claims interview. The Disability Starter Kit also is available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.
When should I apply and what information do I need?
You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. It can take a long time to process an application for disability benefits (three to five months).To apply for disability benefits, you will need to complete an application for Social Security benefits and the Adult Disability Report. You can complete the Adult Disability Report online at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityreport. You also can print the Adult Disability Report, complete it and return it to your local Social Security office. We may be able to process your application faster if you help us by getting any other information we need.
The information we need includes:
- Your Social Security number;
- Your birth or baptismal certificate;
- Names, addresses and phone numbers of the doctors, caseworkers, hospitals and clinics that took care of you and dates of your visits;
- Names and dosage of all the medicine you take;
- Medical records from your doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics and caseworkers that you already have in your possession;
- Laboratory and test results;
- A summary of where you worked and the kind of work you did; and
- A copy of your most recent W-2 Form (Wage and Tax Statement) or, if you are self-employed, your federal tax return for the past year.
In addition to the basic application for disability benefits, there are other forms you will need to fill out. One form collects information about your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work. Other forms give doctors, hospitals and other health care professionals who have treated you permission to send us information about your medical condition.
Do not delay applying for benefits if you cannot get all of this information together quickly. We will help you get it.
Who decides if I am disabled?
We will review your application to make sure you meet some basic requirements for disability benefits. We will check whether you worked enough years to qualify. Also, we will evaluate any current work activities. If you meet these requirements, we will send your application to the Disability Determination Services office in your state.
This state agency completes the disability decision for us. Doctors and disability specialists in the state agency ask your doctors for information about your condition. They will consider all the facts in your case. They will use the medical evidence from your doctors and hospitals, clinics or institutions where you have been treated and all other information. They will ask your doctors:
Source: Social Security Administration. www.socialsecurity.gov