Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

Authored by Wendy Witt, Esq.

We know that anyone who is too ill or too injured to work has a zillion questions about social security disability (SSD) benefits. After all, you've paid into the system via your FICA taxes for years, and now you need the benefits.

This article will outline the two prongs of qualifying for social security disability. However, a social security disability (SSD) attorney will help you to customize your SSD application to increase the likelihood of approval. Every SSD case is just a little (or a lot) different from every other case, so articles like this one are helpful but can't provide everything you need for a successful outcome.

How to Apply for SSD Benefits

  1. You need to have the requisite number of working quarters and payment into the social security system.

    In most cases, only workers who have paid FICA (social security and Medicare) taxes for 20 quarters, within the last 10 years, would qualify for SSD. That's 5 years of working and paying into the system during the last 10 years.

    There is an exception for young workers who became disabled before they could get their 40 quarters in.

    • The Social Security Administration (SSA) measures your work history in quarters (3 month segments) and the work need not be continuous. Basically, you need to have worked 5 out of the last 10 years.
    • There is a 5 year grace period after you stop working. In other words, if you stop paying into the system and become disabled 4 years later, you would still be covered by SSD if you qualify medically. Again, you need to have worked 5 out of the last 10 years.

    If you're not sure whether you have the requisite 20 quarters, you can order your social security benefits statement at no charge. That statement will explain what your disability payments would be should you become disabled. If there's an estimated payment under the disability indicator, you're work eligible.

  2. Have an injury or illness that prevents you from working.

    To qualify for SSD, you must be too injured or too ill to work. That illness or injury must be thought to last more than one year or end in death.

    The SSA has a list of recognized disabilities; your SSD attorney will know how to customize your application to show the SSA that you would qualify.

Social Security Disability is an Insurance Program - NOT Welfare

You may be entitled to disability benefits. Social Security Disability (SSD) is not welfare - and it isn't based on whether you can pay your bills or not.

  • SSD payments are insurance benefits; you've paid the insurance premiums each time you got your paycheck (with the FICA taxes taken out).
  • FICA taxes are sometimes called "payroll taxes"; they're the taxes you pay to Social Security and Medicare.

Do Not Let Your Social Security Disability Eligibility Deadline Pass

If your SSD case has been denied, you absolutely must appeal within 60 days or your claim will be dismissed. Consult with a qualified disability lawyer in your state right away or you will have to start the long and daunting process all over again.

If you need assistance finding a SSD lawyer, ask a loved one for a referral, call your local bar association, or privately use our site for a free case evaluation.

Estimate Your Monthly Disability Payments

If you want to understand your Social Security benefits such as your estimated monthly disability payments or retirement payments - click "Get Your Social Security Statement Online Now".

For many folks, the statement gives them peace of mind, knowing they are "fully insured" - they've worked enough and contributed into the system enough to be entitled to benefits.

More articles about disability

Get informed

Browse comprehensive profiles from top licensed attorneys and law firms.