What Types of Disability Benefits Do You Qualify For? SSA Disability Benefits Guide

by Margot Lester   ·  2 months ago  
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If you’re missing work because of an illness or injury, you may qualify for disability insurance. However, knowing which type of disability benefits can be confusing. We created this guide to give you the information you need to find the appropriate plan.

Types of Disability Benefits in the United States

There are four common types of disability benefits, including two from the Social Security Administration (SSA):

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) covers people with a work history below retirement age who become too disabled to work
  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pays benefits to people who are disabled or 65+, without the work history requirements
  3. Short-Term Disability Insurance (SDI) applies when you’ll be able to return to work within a year
  4. Veterans Disability Compensation (VDC) applies to honorably discharged or released service members whose disabilities were caused or exacerbated during active military duty

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Of all the types of disability benefits, Social Security Disability Insurance is one of the options that offers the highest payment amounts for applicants. However, it has strict eligibility requirements, such as having work history requirements, maximum income caps, and the necessity to prove you’re too disabled to work.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provides financial assistance to individuals who are unable to work due to a disability. Eligibility for SSDI is based on a person’s work history and the severity of their disability, rather than financial need. To qualify, individuals must have worked a certain number of years and paid Social Security taxes.

You can be eligible for SSDI benefits if you are 18 to 64 years old and:

SSDI Benefits

SSDI benefits offer crucial support by providing monthly payments to help cover living expenses, medical costs, and other necessities for those who are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity due to their disabling condition.

The average SSDI benefit is about $1,537 monthly, though payments can be as low as $100 or as high as $3,822. The SSA calculates your monthly payment using a range of numbers that are indexed and adjusted for inflation to determine your SSDI payment.

You usually also qualify for lower-cost health insurance through Medicaid or Medicare (after a 24-month waiting period from the start of benefits). Depending on your income, you could also receive funds for groceries through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

How to Apply for SSDI

The fastest way to apply for SSA disability benefits is via SSA.gov. You can also call 800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778). Regardless of how you apply, make sure you have this information together first:

  • Information about your condition
  • Your name, date and place of birth, and Social Security number
  • Recent work history
  • Current and past marriages
  • Direct deposit information for benefit payments
  • Name of eligible dependents

Getting all the information together to make your claim can be a drag. That’s why some people opt for a free consultation with a local lawyer who specializes in SSA disability benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provides financial assistance to elderly, blind, or disabled individuals with limited income and resources. Comparing SSDI and SSI, SSI is not based on work history, but rather on financial need.

SSI benefits are designed to help individuals meet basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. The program also offers Medicaid coverage in many states, ensuring access to essential healthcare services for eligible recipients. SSI plays a critical role in supporting vulnerable populations who may not qualify for other forms of assistance due to their lack of work history or limited financial resources.

SSI programs are for people who:

  • Haven’t worked in at least 5 years, or are 65 and older
  • Have visual impairments or have another qualifying disability
  • Earn less than $1,550 from substantial gainful activity; $2,590 for people with blindness
  • Live in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia or the Northern Mariana Islands and be a U.S. citizen or national

SSI Benefits

SSI benefit payments provide crucial financial support to individuals with limited income and resources who are elderly, blind, or disabled. The amount of SSI benefits varies depending on factors such as income, living arrangements, and marital status, but it serves as a lifeline for many vulnerable individuals who may not qualify for other forms of assistance. In addition to the monetary support, SSI recipients often receive access to Medicaid, which helps cover essential healthcare costs, further contributing to their well-being and quality of life.

If you qualify, SSI disability pays a maximum of $943 a month for individuals and $1,415 for married couples. The amount you receive may be lower if you’re also getting VA benefits or workers comp.

How to Apply for SSI

Signing up for SSI is easy using the SSA application online portal. You can also apply in person at your local SSA office by calling 1-800-772-1213. Regardless of how you apply, make sure you have this information together first:

  • Your name, date and place of birth, and Social Security number
  • Mailing address, telephone number, and email address (optional)
  • The name, phone number, and email address of anyone helping with your application, including a lawyer
  • Information about your condition

The application process can be confusing, especially when you’re disabled and already no longer able to work. That’s why some people request a free consultation from a local attorney.

Short-Term Disability Insurance (SDI)

Short-Term Disability Insurance (SDI) is a type of insurance policy designed to provide income replacement to individuals who are temporarily unable to work due to a covered disability or illness. Unlike long-term disability insurance, which typically kicks in after an extended waiting period, SDI offers benefits for a shorter duration, usually ranging from a few weeks to several months, depending on the policy terms.

SDI benefits help bridge the gap between the onset of disability and the individual’s return to work, offering financial support to cover living expenses during this period of temporary incapacity. This type of insurance can be particularly valuable for employees who do not have access to employer-sponsored disability benefits or who wish to supplement existing coverage to ensure financial stability in the event of a short-term disability.

SDI coverage helps if you miss work for an illness or injury that will get better in less than a year. It’s not part of the SSA disability program. Some employers offer SDI as part of their benefits packages. And five states provide short-term coverage for people who don’t have employer-provided insurance:

  • Rhode Island
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Hawai’i
  • California

SDI Benefits

SDI provides temporary wage replacement while you’re unable to work. Payment amounts depend on where you live, how much you make, and your employer’s policies.

Apply for SDI

The income and medical requirements for coverage with temporary disability vary widely from state to state and employer to employer, but in general, to qualify, you must:

  • Prove you can’t do your job
  • Have a note from a healthcare professional

Qualifying medical conditions include rehabilitating from an injury or accident, participating in an intensive outpatient program or recovering from giving birth or surgery.

Veterans Disability Compensation (VDC)

Veterans disability benefits are financial compensations provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to eligible veterans who have sustained injuries or developed illnesses during their military service. These benefits aim to provide financial support and assistance to veterans who may be unable to work or face challenges due to service-related disabilities.

The amount of compensation is determined based on the severity of the disability and its impact on the veteran’s ability to function in daily life. Veterans disability benefits not only offer financial assistance but also provide access to healthcare services and vocational rehabilitation programs to help veterans reintegrate into civilian life and achieve a better quality of life post-service.

Service members who served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training—and were honorably discharged or released—may qualify for VA disability for:

  • Physical conditions, like a chronic illness or injury
  • Mental and behavioral health conditions, including PTSD
  • Illness or injury from exposure to burn pits and other toxic substances

Benefits are payable for conditions you develop ahead of, during, or after active duty.

VDC Benefits

The amount you receive depends on your disability rating—an assessment of how severe your illness or injury is. You can see the most up-to-date benefits schedule here. There are additional factors that can increase or decrease your base rating.

Disability RatingMonthly Payment (in U.S. $)
10%$171.23
20%$338.49
30%$524.31
40%$755.28
50%$1,075.16
60%$1,361.88
70%$1,716.28
80%$1,995.01
90%$2,241.91
100%$3,737.85

Establishing your disability rating can require a lot of evidence. That’s why many veterans and their families work with a VA-accredited attorney.

Apply for VDC

The easiest way to submit a claim is online using VA Form 21-526EZ. You can also file:

  • By mailing your completed VA Form 21-526EZ to this Department of Veterans Affairs
    Claims Intake Center, PO Box 4444, Janesville, WI 53547-4444
  • In person at a VA regional office near you.
  • By faxing to 844-531-7818 (U.S.) or 248-524-4260 (international)

However you decide to apply, have this information at hand before you start:

  • VA medical records and hospital records
  • Private medical records and hospital reports
  • Supporting documents

A Board of Veterans Appeals report found that only slightly more than one-third of claims are approved—and that veterans who worked with attorneys won 43% of their cases.

Other Disability Assistance Options

Beyond disability benefits insurance, there are other ways to receive compensation. Among those options are workers compensation and personal injury.

Workers’ Compensation

If your injury was work-related, you may qualify for workers compensation benefits to replace lost wages and cover medical expenses. This coverage is managed at the state level, so the rules differ depending on where you live and work. Most states require employers with even one employee to provide workers comp, but there are some exceptions:

  • New Jersey and Texas don’t mandate workers comp coverage at all, though many employers carry it anyway.
  • Federal employees in every state are covered by a Federal workers comp program.

You may want to work with a skilled workers comp attorney if you have a pre-existing condition or if your doctors don’t agree on your diagnosis.

Personal Injury

Depending on the circumstances of your accident or illness, you might have a personal injury case. And if you want to sue, you should work with an attorney experienced in trial law to make your case in court. That’s because the laws are complex and calculating damages is difficult. Additionally, you’re more likely to get an out-of-court settlement or win a court settlement with expert legal help.

Personal injury attorneys’ fees vary. Most will accept your case on contingency, so you don’t pay anything unless you win your case. How much you owe is outlined in a fee agreement you sign before they agree to represent you. The national average fee is about 30% of your cash reward. You’re responsible for court costs whether you win or not.

Work With an Attorney to Get Disability Benefits

If you don’t want the extra stress of dealing with forms and government agencies when applying for one of these disability programs, hiring a disability attorney to handle your SSA disability claim is a smart move. You not only reduce the hassle, you increase the odds of a successful outcome.

People who get an attorney to file their paperwork are 3x more likely to get benefits, according to the Office of the Inspector General for the SSA.

Margot Lester
CEO at The Word Factory | + posts

Margot Lester is the CEO of The Word Factory, a B2B & B2C content marketing agency that provides services for Fortune 100 brands, healthtech companies and SaaS developers. An award-winning business and brand journalist, she writes for daily and weekly newspapers and business journals, national magazines, in-flight publications and leading websites. Margot is also an in-demand writing coach and organizational communications trainer, helping individuals and teams write more effectively. Twitter: @word_factory LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/margotlester.