Important Information About Social Security Disability Insurance Income (SSDI)


Before you submit an application for Social Security disability benefits, gather important information about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). If you’re suffering from a physical and/or mental disability or disabilities, SSDI may be an important step to achieving financial stability in your life. Know that applying for SSDI can be a lengthy process. Waiting to hear SSA’s decision can take months to years. If you’re denied for benefits the first try, it can take a long time to win your case. Social Security Administration says the average wait for benefits is somewhere between two and four years!

If you’re SSDI application is denied, you may appeal SSA’s decision. If you need help with the appeal process, you have the right to engage a Social Security attorney or a disability support organization. Hiring an attorney before you’re approved won’t cost you anything but, if you’re approved for benefits after the appeal hearing, your attorney is paid directly from your backpay earnings. Think carefully before making the decision to hire expensive legal resources. Make sure the attorney you choose will provide the level of support you need to gain access to SSDI.

Here are some important items to consider about SSDI:

Social Security Taxes and SSDI Eligibility

Not everyone is eligible for SSDI so, before you go through the process of preparing and submitting an application, learn if you’re eligible. If you’ve paid FICA tax on your earnings over the past five of 10 years, you’re probably eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance. If you’d like more information about basic eligibility for SSDI, contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 to learn more.

In addition to FICA tax payments over five years of the last decade, SSA wants to know:

  • If you become disabled before your full SSA retirement age. Depending upon the year you were born, full retirement age is somewhere between 65 and 67 years.
  • Your disability must conform to SSA’s definition. That is, your physical and/or mental disability or condition is expected to last at least 12 months and may ultimately result in death. If your doctor says the prognosis for the condition you’re suffering from is poor, your disability may qualify.

Paying Social Security taxes in five years out of the past 10 years is an essential component of your ability to qualify for SSDI.

  • Let’s say your disability has made it very difficult for you to hold a job but, because you’re struggling financially, you take some part-time work.
  • You don’t pay FICA taxes on the money for about eight years. Even though you worked for several decades and paid into Social Security as a full-time worker, you aren’t eligible for SSDI now. In addition, you’re earning some money—that is, you’re participating in a substantial gainful activity. You’re performing some work but SSA may not agree that you’re disabled.
  • Once you achieve SSA full retirement age, you can apply for retirement benefits. Although you can request retirement benefits as early as age 62, you won’t receive as much money at that time.

SSA Sequential Evaluation Process and SSDI

Assuming that you’ve paid FICA taxes for five out of the last 10 years, the next consideration involves the kind of disability you’re suffering from. SSA automatically approves some medical conditions, such as metastatic colon cancer. In this scenario, SSA’s evaluation process that typically involves five sequential evaluations steps isn’t necessary.

SSA Disability Review

If you’re granted SSDI benefits, your letter from SSA explains when your case will be reviewed in the future. Because many people who receive SSDI benefits aren’t expected to recover from the disability they’re suffering from, the benefits letter says that the next review will occur in five to seven years.

However, it’s possible to that SSA will review your case with greater frequency. For example, let’s say you’re awarded SSDI benefits for a substance abuse (mental disability) condition. Doctors believe it’s possible for your health to improve in the future. SSA may request a review of your case in one year to see how you’re doing.

SSA terms can be confusing. For instance, if SSA believes you medical condition might improve, it may be indicated that improvement is expected, possible, or not expected.

  • If your condition is “expected” to improve, SSA is likely to review your case from six – 18 months after your SSDI benefits begin.
  • f it’s “possible” for your condition to improve, your review is likely to occur three years after your SSDI benefits are initiated.
  • If your condition is not expected to improve, your review is scheduled in five to seven years.

If SSA believes you’re progressing, or that “medical improvement” has occurred, your SSDI benefits aren’t likely to stop. However, it’s possible that, along with career counseling, you could find substantial gainful activity in the future. If you and your medical treaters agree, SSA would work with you to create a back to work plan. After finding paid employment, SSDI benefits would be paid to you for at least nine months as you transition back to work.

Important Information about Social Security Disability Insurance Income

According to the most recent SSA data, about 67 percent of SSDI applications are rejected on the first try. Financial experts say that submitting a “complete” application can reduce the likelihood of rejection or approval delays.

  • If you’re suffering with a physical ailment like cancer, your medical team will report the stage of your cancer.
  • If you’ve been receiving therapy for months or years and the disease is progressing (or you’ve suffered additional problems as a result of the therapy, such as a secondary cancer from radiation treatments), make sure that SSA has all the information.
  • Before submitting your SSDI application, create a timeline. Provide the names of all your providers, when you received treatments, and what treatments you received. Offer a list of the medications you take now and/or you took in the past to treat the condition.

After you submit initial information on the SSDI application, SSA will send forms for your treaters to fill out and return. It’s important to submit the forms to SSA by the deadline provided. Don’t wait! Providers may not like filling out lengthy forms but it’s part of their job. Ask your providers in person to fill out the required form(s) and agree on a date when you or your designate can return to retrieve completed paperwork.