What Is Social Security Disability?

Across the country, millions of people are suffering from disabilities and disabling conditions. These impairments range from marginal to severe. Some people may be able to function independently, whereas other disabled individuals are totally dependent.

Regardless of the disability, many people continue to suffer.

Fortunately, there is assistance. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is a federal governmental agency that offers social assistance. Most well known for retirement benefits, the SSA also provides various other forms of support. One of the SSA’s main programs is Social Security Disability (SSD).

Understanding The SSA Process

Applying for SSD is never easy. As a matter of fact, the Social Security Administration (SSA) rejects the large majority of initial disability applications. Appeals also have a poor rate of approval. If you or someone you know is applying, it’s time to be smart. Don’t risk common mistakes.

Don’t make filing errors. Don’t fall into pitfalls that get many applicants rejected. You need to have all relevant medical and vocational documentation. You also need to have a firm understanding of your condition and how it impairs you.

A top social security disability lawyer can help. The best disability advocates understand the SSA process, inside and out. These legal professionals know how the system works. They know how the system approves and denies. A competent lawyer can be an incredible asset.

If you are at all unsure, don’t go it alone. Don’t take on the SSA by yourself.

The Differences Between SSDI & SSI

The SSA has two programs that apply to people with disabilities. These programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both SSDI and SSI can be available to claimants with disability. Both programs also deliver monthly, regular payments.

However, both programs differ in their criteria. Although these programs rely on the same definition of disability, not all applicants must be disabled to qualify.


SSDI is a program that primarily aids recipients who are both disabled and unable to work. Although applicants may still be able to work, their work capacity must be heavily limited.

The SSA will also require that applicants have paid into Social Security taxes. These individuals must have a work history that is based on “work credits.”

An applicant can earn up to 4 work credits in a year. Each credit is worth $1,360 in earnings. The SSA will assess each applicant based on the amount of these credits. However, younger workers do not need as many work credits as older workers do.

Typically, an applicant must have 40 credits, 20 of them accrued in the last 10 years.

The SSA assesses both work duration and work recency. The recency work test is based on the age at which the applicant became disabled. The duration of work test is based on the length of time the applicant worked under Social Security.

If a worker has not worked long enough, or recently enough, he or she will not  qualify for SSDI.


Unlike SSDI, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is paid to people of low means.

Applicants for SSI do not necessarily have to be disabled. SSI claimants can also be blind or aged 65 or older. Again, SSI is designed mostly for applicants who lack the means to support themselves. Many of these people are elderly. Many of them are poor. Many are disabled.

When assessing an SSI applicant, the SSA will examine resources and income. An individual cannot earn more than $771 monthly. That number jumps to $1,157 monthly for couples. Any income higher than this will result in a denial.

In terms of resources, an individual cannot have more than $2,000 in value. A couple cannot have more than $3,000 in value.

The Definition of Disability

There are clearly many differences between the requirements for the two disability programs, SSDI and SSI. However, Both SSDI and SSI use the same disability definition. Applicants must have total disabilities.

The SSA defines disability as “any medically determinable physical or mental  impairment(s)” preventing substantial gainful activity (SGA):

  • which can be expected to lead to death, or
  • which can be expected to last for at least a year, or
  • which already lasted for at least a year

SGA is a certain threshold of monthly earnings. People who make too much will not be approved by the SSA. These applicants will be considered capable of work. Thus, their disability will not be determined to be severe.

Overall, SSDI and SSI are two very powerful programs. They can completely change a recipient’s life. However, the laws are very strict. It is not easy to get approved. If you want to apply for, or appeal, disability benefits, you need legal help. Contact the disability experts at The Law Firm of O’Brien & Feiler today.


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