Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

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Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides payments to workers with disabilities who have paid into the Social Security trust fund through FICA taxes over the years. When you and your employer pay into the Social Security program, you are essentially buying long-term disability insurance coverage. Once you have paid into the program for a specified period, you are eligible for benefits, should you become unable to earn a living. (SSDI payments are usually higher than payments from SSI (Supplemental Security Income), a need-based program for low-income elderly, disabled, and blind people.)

The number of people applying for SSDI benefits is on the rise. The greater number of applications may be a result of individuals with worsening disabilities who have been out of work because of the recession and now realize they are medically unable to return to work. According to the Social Security Administration, more than 7.2 million workers and their families currently draw Social Security disability benefits. And a 20-year-old worker has a 3-in-10 chance of becoming disabled before retirement age.

Social Security disability payments are not intended to cover temporary, short-term, or partial disability. SSDI benefits were sanctioned by Congress with the assumption that working families have other support resources during short-term disabilities—such as workers’ compensation, insurance, savings, and investment income.

The SSDI program has specific requirements, based on age, for the number of years you need to have worked and how recently you need to have worked to qualify for SSDI. Learn about these eligibility requirements, how Social Security makes disability determinations, and how to file for disability benefits.

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