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What is SSDI?  SSDI refers to the Social Security Disability Insurance program.  SSDI is tied to the Social Security retirement program, but is for workers who become disabled before retirement age.  Social Security disability is for workers who’ve paid taxes into the Social Security system for many years. Only workers who have worked and paid Social Security taxes for many years are insured by the SSDI program.

In order to be eligible to receive disability benefits, the Social Security’s rule says that the applicant must be “unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.”  The impairment or combination of impairments must be of such severity that the applicant is not only unable to do his or her previous work but cannot, considering his or her age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy (Social Security Act, section 223(d)).

A person is considered to be involved in substantial gainful activity (SGA) if he or she earns more than a certain amount of income from work.  The monthly SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals for 2017 is $1950. For non-blind individuals, the monthly SGA amount for 2017 is $1170.  SGA for the blind does not apply to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, while SGA for the non-blind disabled applies to Social Security and SSI benefits. If an individual earns more than the SGA amount, he or she would not be eligible for disabled worker benefits. The amount is adjusted each year to keep up with average wages. (In some cases earnings can be reduced by the costs associated with work, such as paying for a wheelchair or services of an attendant. If deductible work expenses bring net earnings below $1,090 a month, the individual can be eligible for benefits.)

The medical and vocational determinations are made by State agencies, operating under federal guidelines, for the Social Security Administration about whether applicants meet the test of disability in the law. Medical records, work history, and the applicant’s age and education are considered in making the determination.

Social Security Disability Insurance is funded through payroll taxes. SSDI recipients are considered “insured” because they have worked for a certain number of years and have made contributions to the Social Security trust fund in the form of FICA Social Security taxes. SSDI candidates must be younger than 65 and have earned a certain number of “work credits.” After receiving SSDI for two years, a disabled person will become eligible for Medicare.

Under SSDI, a disabled person’s spouse and children dependents are eligible to receive partial dependent benefits, called auxiliary benefits.  However, only adults over the age of 18 can receive the SSDI disability benefit.

There is a five-month waiting period for benefits, meaning that Social Security won’t pay you benefits for the first five months after you become disabled. The amount of the monthly benefit after the waiting period is over depends on your earnings record, much like the Social Security retirement benefit.



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