Social Security Disability Insurance – Introduction

What is Social Security Disability Insurance?

This is an insurance program under which workers earn coverage for disability benefits by working and paying Social Security taxes on their earnings.

This program provides benefits to disabled workers and to their dependents.

All wage earners pay a Federal tax called FICA tax, (Federal Insurance Contribution Act tax). The self employed pay a similar tax called SECA tax (Self Employed Contribution Act tax). These taxes in part fund the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund which pays out a monthly disability allowance (called benefit) to a wage earner who is disabled due to a medical cause, and is unable to work, or is working, but whose average income is less than the limit defined by the Social Security Administration.

The FECA/SECA tax that one pays acts as a premium for disability Insurance. If sufficient tax has been paid then one becomes insured, and can receive a disability benefit if found to be disabled due to a medical condition.

The disability determination is a five step process. There are many if’s and but’s to it, and many exceptions. This website only provides some general information. One has to look at the law, and how that law has been applied to facts.

Disabled children and widow of a disabled person may also receive a disability allowance if they meet certain conditions. There are different rules for disability due to blindness.

A person applying for disability is called the claimant … one who is claiming disability benefit.

To receive a disability benefit in general one must be:

  1. US citizen or a legal resident who has paid FECA/SECA taxes.
  2. Has worked and paid taxes long enough to be considered insured.

    This depends on the age of the claimant. At age 28 or less the claimant must have worked for at least one and half years (six quarters of credit). The number of years of work required goes on increasing as one gets older. By the age of 60 the requirement is nine and half years of work.

  3. Has worked and paid taxes recent enough to be considered currently insured.

    This is also related to age. For example a claimant 31 yrs or older should have worked for at least five years out of the previous ten years before becoming disabled.

If you are eligible and medically disabled then you can apply for disability … it is a five step process.


SSA Publication Disability Benefits

HALLEX – SSA Hearings, Appeals, and Litigation Law Manual

POMS – SSA Program Policy Information Site

Code of Federal Regulations – 20 CFR Section 404