Social Security Disability

There are two disability programs available through the Social Security Administration: SSDI and SSI.


Social Security Disability Insurance is paid for by you through your payroll deductions. In order to qualify for SSDI, you must meet the following criteria:

  • have a physical or mental condition that prevents you from engaging in any “substantial gainful activity”, and
  • the condition is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death, and
  • they are under the age of 65, and
  • generally, have worked 5 out of the last 10 years as of the determined date of onset of disability

SSDI will provide monthly income for you and your dependent children during the time that you are unable to work. This includes back pay for the period that you have been out of work as a result of your disability. The amount you are eligible to receive may vary depending on your employment history. Your Social Security Statement will provide you with your specific benefit and should be mailed to you on a regular basis. If you need a copy of this statement, you can request one here. The amount that your dependent children will receive may be more difficult to determine ahead of time, but generally is substantial. The maximum individual benefit is $2,224/month and the maximum total family benefit is $3945/month.
Before considering an application for SSDI, make sure that you qualify for benefits under the SSA guidance. If you feel that you qualify, you will need to consider how you will apply. There are two ways to approach you application: directly through the SSA application process or through a third party social security disability benefits facilitator. Either way, the approval process will take some time. The current backlog of SSDI applications is significant and getting a priority review can be very difficult. Expect a minimum wait of 4-8 months and as long as 2-3 years.
The success rate of applications improves greatly with the experience of your representative. Individual applicants have approximately a 52% success rate compared to a 67% success rate with legal representation according to a recent study by the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). Third party representatives boast success rates upwards of 80-90%. My personal experience was with Allsup and I was approved in 5 months.
The cost of legal representation or a third party company should be made clear at the start of the process. As opposed to other areas where individuals may have their interests professionally represented, those who represent social security disability and ssi claims have caps on what they may charge. An Attorney or Representative for a disability case is allowed to receive 25% of a Claimant’s past due benefits. So, if a Claimant recieves a backpayment of $10,000.00, a representative will receive $2,500.00 as the fee. The maximum fee allowed is $6000.
The SSA provides a fairly straightforward, although lengthy online application process. You should read thoroughly through the Disability Starter Kit to get a sense of what will be required. If you decide to go at it alone, it is highly recommended that you use the online application process. Having your information available electronically for review will speed the process.
Note that SSDI income may be taxable if you earn income in addition to SSDI payments.


Supplemental Security Income is a program managed by the Social Security Administration that makes payments to people with low income who are age 65 or older, are blind, or have a disability. SSI is funded from the general government budget. Do not confuse SSI with SSDI – they are entirely different programs.

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