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Social security disability benefits are an important way to help with finances for you and your family. If you have a disability that is keeping you from working, or you are working while living with a disability, you may be able to receive financial assistance through the federal Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Program. According to a 2022 Report on the SSDI Program, benefits were paid to over 8.9 million people that year with payments totaling $12.6 billion. Read on to learn more about the process of securing these benefits and what they can do for you. 

Which disabilities qualify for benefits?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a specific definition of what is considered a qualifying disability for SSDI applicants. If you are living with a disability, you are generally considered eligible to apply if the following are true:

  • You cannot perform important physical or mental activities because of your medical condition.
  • You cannot do work you did previously or other work because of your medical condition.
  • Your condition has lasted or is expected to last for at least 1 year or could be fatal.

If you are still unsure if you have a qualifying disability, the SSA keeps a list of medical conditions that are considered severe enough to prevent a person from doing most physical or mental activities. 

How much money can you get?
Not everyone who receives SSDI benefits gets the same amount of money each month. The amount of your monthly payment is based on a percentage of the income you earned before your disability began. According to Forbes Advisor, the maximum SSDI benefit as of 2023 is $3,627 a month but the average payment received by disabled workers is $1,483 a month. Monthly payments may also increase as the price of overall goods and services increase. This is known as a Cost of Living Adjustment. If you are receiving SSDI benefits before you reach full retirement age (generally 66 or older), your disability benefits will automatically switch to retirement benefits when that time comes. However, the amount will stay the same.

How long do you have to work to get benefits?
Whether or not you qualify for SSDI benefits depends on the number of Social Security credits you have. You get credits for paying Social Security taxes on your work income. In 2024, you get one credit for each $1,730 you earn, with up to a maximum of four credits per year, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). The amount of credits needed for disability benefits depends on how old you were when your disability began. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year your disability begins. However, younger workers may be able to get benefits with fewer credits. As average wage levels increase, so will the amount of money you must earn to get credits. The credits you earn will stay on your record even if you change jobs or have no income for a while. 

Can you get Medicare and SSDI benefits at the same time?
The short answer is yes. If you receive SSDI benefits, you automatically qualify for Medicare. However, you will likely have to wait 24 months to tap into those benefits. This waiting period is to make sure you are not eligible for health insurance through a former employer. For more details on signing up for Medicare, check out our blog post titled “Spending Less to Get the Most Out of Medicare”. 

Can you get SSDI benefits while you work?
It is possible for people with a disability to get SSDI benefits while employed. In fact, according to a 2022 Report on the SSDI Program, disabled workers made up 85% of people that year who received SSDI benefits. Active workers with a disability who apply for SSDI benefits will have to go through a trial work period that tests your ability to work for at least 9 months. If you need certain items or services to help you at work, the cost will be subtracted from your monthly income. If the remaining income amount is under the eligibility limit, you can still receive benefits. Such items or services may include transportation, medical devices, personal care assistance, assistive technology, and home modifications.

When and how to apply?
You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you develop a disability. According to the SSA, it usually takes about six to eight months for a decision to be made once you’ve submitted your application. You can check the status of your benefits application online by creating or signing in to your personal my Social Security account at

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