If you can't work because you get sick or injured, disability insurance will pay part of your income. You may be able to get insurance through your employer. You can also buy your own policy
Types of Disability Policies
There are two types of disability policies.
- Short-term policies may pay for up to two years. Most last for a few months to a year.
- Long-term policies may pay benefits for a few years or until the disability ends.
Employers who offer coverage may provide short-term coverage, long-term coverage, or both. If you plan to buy your own policy, shop around and ask:
- How is disability defined?
- When do benefits begin?
- How long do benefits last?
- How much money will the policy pay?
Federal Disability ProgramsTwo Social Security Administration programs pay benefits to people with disabilities. Learn about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI).
Social Security Benefits for People with Disabilities
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two programs that provide benefits to people with disabilities:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI is for people who have earned enough Social Security work credits within a certain time period
Definition of Disability
To qualify for either program as a person with a disability, you must meet SSA’s definition of disability, which says:
- You can’t work, and
- Your disability is expected to last for at least one year or result in death
Social Security uses a step-by-step process to decide if you have a disability. Partial and shortterm disabilities do not meet SSA’s standard and are not eligible for benefits.
Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool
You can use the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool to find out quickly whether you may be eligible for SSDI or SSI disability benefits.
Learn More About Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn Social Security “work credits,” up to four a year depending on your income. To be eligible for SSDI, you must have accumulated a certain number of work credits, some of them relatively recently. The number of work credits you need is based on your age when you stopped working due to your disability.
Benefits for Family Members
Your spouse or former spouse and your children may be eligible for benefits when you start receiving SSDI in some situations.
Applying for SSDI
You can apply for benefits online, by phone, or in person.
- If your application is denied, you can appeal the decision.
- If your application is approved, you’ll start receiving benefits about six months after your disability began. You’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare two years after you begin receiving SSDI payments.
Returning to Work
You can generally return to work without losing your SSDI benefits if you earn less than what SSA considers a “substantial” amount. In 2018, average earnings of $1,180 or more per month are usually considered substantial.
Learn More About Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSI benefits are for adults and children with a disability who have little income or resources. Seniors 65 and older without a disability may be eligible for benefits if they meet the income limits. People who are eligible to receive SSDI may be eligible for SSI too.
In most states, people who receive SSI also receive Medicaid coverage. Many states also provide supplemental payments to certain SSI recipients.
Defining Disability for SSI
Adults under 65 must meet SSA’s definition of disability.
For a child, disability means:
- Having a physical or mental impairment that causes marked and severe functional limitations
- The disability is expected to last for at least one year or result in death
Applying for SSI
Adults can apply for SSI by phone, in person at a local Social Security office, or in some cases online. To apply for SSI for a child, you can start the process online but will need to complete it either in person or by phone.
- You can appeal if your claim is denied.
Explore this listing of SSI topics to learn more detailed information.
Going to Work
SSI work incentives can help you go to work by lowering the chances that you’ll lose your SSI benefit or Medicaid coverage. You can earn $65 a month without it affecting your cash benefit. Beyond that, your SSI payment will go down $1 for every $2 you earn.
Health Coverage for People With Disabilities
If you have a disability, you have a number of options for health coverage through the government.
- Medicaid provides free or low-cost medical benefits to people with disabilities. Learn about eligibility and how to apply.
- Medicare provides medical health insurance to people under 65 with certain disabilities and any age with end-stage renal disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant). Learn about eligibility, how to apply and coverage.
- Affordable Care Act Marketplace offers options to people who have a disability, don’t qualify for disability benefits, and need health coverage. Learn about the Marketplace, how to enroll, and use your coverage.
Health Resources for People With Disabilities
Federal, state, and local government agencies and programs can help with your health needs if you have a disability.
- Explore the Disability and Health section of CDC.gov for articles, programs, tips for healthy living and more
- Learn more about assistance and benefits for people with disabilities from the Social Security Administration.
- Contact your local city or county government to find out what medical and health services are available locally for people with disabilities.
- Your state social service agency can help you locate medical and health programs.
- Visit USA.gov’s Government Benefits page to learn more about government programs and services that can help you and your family.
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