Social Security Disability Insurance

A wheelchair in front of a woman helping a disabled man get out of a van.

Benefits You've Earned

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays benefits to individuals who cannot work because of severe medical conditions. These benefits continue until individuals are able to work again. The payments are reclassified as retirement benefits if these individuals reach the age of 66 years and 2 months if they were born before 1955, and 67, if they were born after 1960.

Your Work History

Any work income that you’ve paid Social Security taxes on, either through payroll deductions or self-employment, is used to determine your Social Security Administration (SSA) “work credits.” In this system, the SSA specifies a particular quantity of income as a single credit. This quantity increases each year in accordance with average American earnings.

For example, in 2019, workers will receive one credit for each $1,360 of their qualifying income. Regardless of one’s total income, the SSA caps work credits at 4 per year. Generally, you need 40 work credits to qualify for SSDI, 20 of which must have been earned in the 10 years just prior to the disability. These requirements are scaled for younger applicants with shorter work histories.

If you are currently working, your earnings must be less than $1220 a month for you to be considered disabled.

Your Disability

SSDI only pays benefits for total, long-term disabilities—not partial or short-term. If your work history and income meet the above criteria, Disability Determination Services will collect information from your doctors and other medical personnel to assess your condition according to the following:

  • The Severity of your Disability
    Can you lift, stand, walk, sit, and remember things well enough to work?
  • Type of Disability
    Your disability must be included in the SSA’s list of qualifying medical conditions. If your disability is not on this list, the agency will determine if your condition is severe enough to warrant inclusion.
  • Types of work you can do
    If you can do the kind of work you’ve done previously, your claim will be denied. Otherwise, the SSA will decide if you are well enough to do some other type of work instead.
  • Length of Time You are Disabled
    You must be (or expected to be) disabled as described above for at least one year, or until death if the disability is expected to result in death.

Partial SSDI benefits are also available for individuals who are legally blind, disabled widows and widowers, veterans, and disabled children of any age who are dependents of qualified workers.

Your Payments

Once your disability has been determined, the SSA will decide on the Established Onset Date (EOD). This is the date on which the SSA believes you became disabled according to the criteria outlined above. This date may differ from your Alleged Onset Date (AOD), the date you claim on your application for benefits.

Unfortunately, your payments won’t begin until after a five-month waiting period that begins on your EOD. Once the waiting period is over, your benefit payments will reflect your earnings record, similar to the way Social Security Retirement payments are calculated. After receiving SSDI benefits for 2 years, beneficiaries are eligible for Medicare.

Sobering Outcomes

Not surprisingly, the SSA is quite strict in determining who is eligible to receive SSDI benefits and when those benefits should begin. While it varies by state, of the millions of Americans who apply for SSDI each year, 65-70% are denied. The SSA rejects claims based on their belief that:

  • You lack medical evidence to support your claim
  • You are, in fact, capable of performing some kind of work
  • You aren’t doing everything you can to get better (take medications, receive therapy, etc.)

How I Can Help

If you’ve experienced a severe injury or illness that’s preventing you from working, you are most likely entitled to SSDI benefits. And your chances for a successful claim or appeal are significantly improved by legal counsel and representation. If you are filing your first claim, I can help you:

  • Establish your AOD (Alleged Onset Date)
  • Focus your application on those aspects of your case that are most important to the SSA
  • Help you collect and submit the proper medical evidence to support your claim

If you’ve already filed an initial claim and been denied benefits, I can help you appeal the decision by:

  • Crafting a strong legal argument for the judge
  • Preparing you to testify at the hearing
  • Cross-examining a Vocational or Medical Expert


Federal law requires SSDI attorneys to charge 25% of whatever is determined to be the claimant's backpay (the time between your EOD and your actual payments), with a total limit of $6,000. You pay nothing if your claim is denied.

Get a Free Consultation

The processing time for an SSDI claim can be quite long. So the sooner you get in touch with a skilled SSDI attorney, the better. I can help speed your case through the system—especially if your situation is desperate, either financially or medically. I may even be able to request an On the Record (OTR) decision, which would allow you to receive benefits without a hearing.

You deserve a compassionate advocate who will fight for you to receive the SSDI benefits you’re entitled to. Call 301-589-4597 or email me at today for a free consultation about your disability case.