Short-Term and Long-Term Disability Insurance
If you can’t work because you get sick or injured, disability insurance will pay part of your income. You may be able to get insurance through your employer. You can also buy your own policy.
Types of Disability Policies
There are two types of disability policies.
Employers who offer coverage may provide short-term coverage, long-term coverage, or both.
If you plan to buy your own policy, shop around and ask:
Federal Disability Programs
Two Social Security Administration programs pay benefits to people with disabilities. Learn about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI).
Social Security Benefits for People with Disabilities
If you have a disability, two programs from the Social Security Administration (SSA) may be able to help.
Understand the SSDI and SSI Programs for People with Disabilities
Definition of Disability
To qualify for either program, you must meet SSA’s definition of disability:
You can’t work
Your disability is expected to last for at least one year or result in death
Your impairment is on Social Security’s list of disabling medical conditions
Social Security uses a step-by-step process to decide if you have a disability. Partial and short-term disabilities do not meet SSA’s standard. They’re not eligible for benefits.
Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool
Use the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool to find out if you may qualify for SSDI or SSI.
How to Apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn Social Security “work credits.” You earn up to four a year depending on your income. To be eligible for SSDI, you must have earned a certain number of work credits, some of them recently. The number of work credits you need depends on your age when you stopped working due to your disability.
Benefits for Family Members
Your spouse or former spouse and your children may be eligible for benefits when you start getting SSDI.
Applying for SSDI
If your application is denied, you can appeal the decision.
If it’s approved, you’ll have a five-month waiting period for benefits to start. You’ll receive benefits for the sixth full month after the date SSA finds your disability began.
You’ll be enrolled in Medicare two years after you begin receiving SSDI payments.
Returning to Work
You can usually return to work without losing your SSDI if you earn less than a “substantial” amount. In 2019, the SSA considered average earnings of $1,220 or more per month “substantial.”
You can try out your ability to return to work for at least nine months. You won’t lose your SSDI benefits or Medicare coverage. See the booklet Working While Disabled: How We Can Help to learn more.
How to Apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSI benefits are for adults and children with a disability and little income or resources. Seniors 65 and older without a disability may be eligible if they meet the income limits. People who are eligible to receive SSDI may be eligible for SSI too.
In most states, people who receive SSI also receive Medicaid coverage. Many states also provide supplemental payments to certain SSI recipients.
Defining Disability for SSI
Adults under 65 must meet SSA’s definition of disability.
For a child, disability means:
Applying for SSI
Adults can apply for SSI by phone, in person at a local Social Security office, or in some cases online. To apply for SSI for a child, you can start the process online but will need to complete it either in person or by phone.
You can appeal if your claim is denied.
Explore a listing of SSI topics to learn more detailed information.
Going to Work
SSI work incentives help you go to work by reducing your risk of losing your SSI or Medicaid coverage. You can earn $65 a month without it affecting your cash benefit. Beyond that, your SSI payment will go down $1 for every $2 you earn.
When your earnings plus any other income exceed your state’s SSI income limits, you won’t receive SSI. Your payments will start again for any month your income drops to less than the SSI limits. You can learn more in the booklet Working While Disabled: How We Can Help.