If you have a disability that's expected to last more than a year or result in death, you might qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
You can apply for SSI or SSDI at any time. There's no need to wait for a certain age or time of the year. If you're approved, Social Security will pay benefits going all the way back to the date you applied. That's why it's important to apply as soon as you can.
Here, see common questions about disability benefits. If you have a question that isn't answered here, check out Social Security under Your Options.
There are three ways to apply for SSI:
To check the status of your application and benefits, you can create a free and secure my Social Security account.
The application process usually takes a few months, sometimes longer. To speed things up, make sure you include everything Social Security asks for with your application. If you're approved, Social Security will pay benefits going all the way back to the date you applied. That's why it's important to apply as soon as you can.
Social Security says you have a disability if you can't work enough to support yourself (known as the Substantial Gainful Activity, or SGA, level) because you have a physical or mental condition that's expected to last more than a year or result in death. You must show medical records that confirm your disability.
Social Security follows a five-step process to see if your condition meets their standards for disability.
If your application for disability benefits is denied, you can file an appeal. If this is what you want to do, it's important to act quickly. You have 60 days from the date you get the denial letter to file an appeal (knowing that Social Security figures you got the letter within five days after they sent it). If you don't file within 60 days, you may not be able to appeal the decision.
You can file your appeal online or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY) and ask them to send you an SSI or SSDI appeal form. If you file online, you'll need to mail or take any new information about your situation to the Social Security office.
You have the right to have a lawyer or other qualified person (someone who is familiar with you and with disability benefits) to represent you during the appeal process — or you can handle the appeal yourself.
For help with your appeal, contact an agency listed in the Social Security Advocacy Directory.
Social Security has two disability benefits programs with similar names:
Some people qualify for both programs at the same time. If you get benefits from Social Security but aren't sure whether it's SSI or SSDI, contact the Hub. We can help you figure it out.
Adults who have a disability that began before age 22 can get Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefits — sometimes called Childhood Disability Benefits, or CDB — based on their parent's work and the taxes their parents paid into Social Security.