There are two basic requirements for SSDI:
- You must be insured. You have to have worked long enough to be covered by SSDI.
- You must have a disability that meets Social Security’s standards. The disability determination process looks at five criteria when deciding whether you have a disability.
Usually, you must meet both of these requirements to get benefits. However, there are some exceptions:
- If you are an adult who has not worked because of a disability that began before you turned 22, you may qualify for Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB).
- If you are under the age of 19, you may qualify if one of your parents gets Social Security retirement benefits or disability insurance benefits, or is deceased. You do not need to have a disability.
- If your spouse or ex-spouse qualifies for SSDI benefits or Social Security retirement benefits, or qualified before dying, you may be able to get these benefits as well.
If you qualify, the amount of benefits you get is based on your Social Security earnings record (or the record of your parent or spouse). The more you’ve worked and the more you’ve paid in Social Security taxes, the higher your benefits will be.
After getting SSDI benefits for two years, you automatically get Medicare health coverage.
If you get SSDI benefits and want to start working again, SSDI has rules and incentives that can help you work without having to worry that you’ll lose the benefits you need.
Social Security has two disability benefits programs with very similar names:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) gives cash benefits to people with disabilities who qualify because they used to work or have a parent who worked. SSDI is explained in this article.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) gives cash benefits to people with disabilities who have low income and low resources. You do not need to have worked in the past to get SSI. Learn more in DB101’s SSI and APA article.
Some people qualify for both programs at the same time. If you get benefits from Social Security, but aren't sure which ones you get, order a free Benefits Planning Query (BPQY) at your local Social Security office or by calling 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY).
If you have questions about SSDI and need to talk with somebody, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY) or visit your local Social Security office.
If you want to ask about how work might affect your SSDI benefits, try contacting:
- The Alaska Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) Project at 1-800-243-2199 or 1-907-264-6279, or
- The Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY).