More Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability Benefits

Q: Can I receive Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits?

A: You may be able to receive SSI in addition to monthly Social Security benefits, if you have low income and few resources. Visit the SSA’s Supplemental Security Income webpage for more information on the eligibility requirements for SSI. It is important to note that you can apply for Social Security benefits online. However, you cannot apply for SSI online. To apply for SSI, you must schedule an appointment at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday or contact your local Social Security office.

Q: When will Social Security begin paying benefits to same-sex married couples and surviving spouses?

A: As stated in many of the previous answers to the FAQs on this topic, Social Security is now processing some retirement, surviving spouse and lump-sum death payment claims for same-sex couples and paying benefits where they are due. The SSA is also considering same-sex marriages when processing some claims for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The SSA is working with the Department of Justice to develop and implement additional policy and processing instructions. If you believe you may be eligible for retirement or survivors benefits or SSI, we encourage you to apply now to protect you against the loss of any potential benefits, and the SSA will process claims as soon as additional instructions become finalized. If you have questions about how a same-sex marriage may affect your claim, please call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or contact your local Social Security office.

Q: Can I receive benefits on my deceased ex-spouse's record?

A: You can receive benefits as a surviving divorced spouse on the Social Security record of a deceased former spouse who is fully insured.  If you: 1.) Are at least age 60, or age 50 and disabled; 2.) Were married to the former spouse for at least 10 years; 3.) Are not entitled to a higher Social Security benefit on your own record; and 4.) Are unmarried, unless the following exception applies:  You remarried after age 60; or after age 50 and at the time of re-marriage you were entitled to Social Security disability benefits.

The benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse will not affect the benefit amount paid to other family members who receive benefits on the same record. You can apply or get an estimate of benefits online or by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Q: Can I apply for retirement and disability at the same time?

A: Yes. When you apply for Social Security benefits online, the Social Security Benefit Application establishes a claim for retirement insurance benefits, spouse's benefits and disability benefits. It becomes a valid application for all benefit types for which you are eligible. The online retirement application is easy to use. You can complete it at your convenience in as little as 15 minutes. To help you prepare to apply for retirement or spouse's benefits, you may want to first visit the SSA’s retirement planners, and you also may want to visit the SSA’s online Retirement Estimator for an estimate of what your benefit might be.

To complete the process of filing for disability benefits, you must also complete the Adult Disability Report online and an Authorization to Release Medical Records. At this time, you cannot apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits online.

Q: Do disabled children qualify for benefits?

A: A child younger than age 18 can qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if the child meets Social Security’s definition of disability for children . The child’s income and resources must fall within eligibility limits and the SSA also considers the income and resources of parents living in the same household. Disabled children over the age of 18 may qualify for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. SSDI pays benefits to adult children who have a disability that began before age 22. The SSA considers this a “child’s” benefit because it is paid on a parent’s Social Security earnings record.  For a disabled adult to become entitled to “child” benefits, one of the “child’s” parents: 1.) Must be receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits; or 2.) Must have died and have worked long enough to become insured under Social Security. SSDI benefits also are payable to an adult who received dependents benefits on a parent’s Social Security earnings record before age 18, if he or she is disabled at age 18. Under both programs, the child must not be doing any substantial work . For more information about these programs, see Benefits For Children With Disabilities.

How to apply for benefits: Apply for a child under age 18 by first submitting the Child Disability Report . Then, schedule an appointment to complete the application in person by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or contacting your local Social Security office . Apply for a child who is age 18 or older by submitting The SSA's online Disability Application and Social Security will contact you to complete an application for SSI. You can schedule an appointment to file for SSI benefits by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or visit your local Social Security office 

Q: What does Title II under the Social Security Act pertain to and how is eligibility met?

A: Title II of the Social Security Act pertains to Federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance benefits. The Social Security program pays benefits to retired or disabled workers and their families, and to the families of deceased workers. To be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, an individual must be at least 62 years old, have worked, paid Social Security taxes, earned at least 40 credits (10 years of work) and apply.

To be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, an individual must be disabled (unable to engage in substantial gainful activity for 12 months), earned a minimum number of credits from work covered under Social Security and apply. Generally, you need 20 credits earned in the last 10 years, ending with the year you became disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

When a person dies, certain members of the family may be eligible for survivors' benefits if the deceased worked, paid Social Security taxes, and earned enough credits. The number of credits a person needs depends on their age at the time of death. The younger a person is, the fewer credits are needed for family members to be eligible for survivors' benefits. However, nobody needs more than 40 credits to be eligible for any Social Security benefit.

A former spouse can receive benefits under the same circumstances as a widow/widower if the marriage lasted 10 years or more.  Survivors benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse will not affect the benefit rates for other survivors receiving benefits.

For more information, you may want to read, Social Security Retirement Benefits (Publication Number 05-10035), Social Security Survivors Benefits (Publication Number 05-10084), and Social Security Disability Benefits, (Publication Number 05-10029).

Q: I applied for Social Security disability benefits and received a letter that says I meet the medical requirements, but Social Security will review the non-medical requirements of my claim. What are non-medical requirements?

A: Non-medical requirements for Social Security disability benefits include: 1.) Proof of age; 2.) Employment; 3.) Marital status; or 4.) Social Security coverage information.

Q: What is the earliest age I can receive Social Security disability benefits?

A: There is no minimum age as long as you meet the very strict Social Security definition of disability. But to qualify for disability benefits you must have worked long and recently enough under Social Security to earn the required number of work credits.

You can earn up to a maximum of four work credits each year. The amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels rise.  The number of work credits you need for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. The rules for how much work you need to qualify for disability benefits are as follows: 1.) Before age 24--You may qualify if you have 6 credits earned in the 3-year period ending when your disability starts; 2.) Age 24 to 31--You may qualify if you have credit for working half the time between age 21 and the time you become disabled. For example, if you become disabled at age 27, you would need credit for 3 years of work (12 credits) out of the past 6 years (between ages 21 and 27); and 3.) Age 31 or older--In general, you need to have the number of work credits shown in the chart on the SSA website, and you can find the chart by clicking the Question above. Unless you are blind, you must have earned at least 20 of the credits in the 10 years immediately before you became disabled.

Q: Can I collect Social Security benefits as a U.S. citizen living in a foreign country?

A: If you are a U. S. citizen, you may receive your Social Security benefits outside the United States as long as you are eligible. The SSA cannot send payments to certain countries; however, for more information, refer to Your Payments While You Are Outside The United States: Countries to which we cannot send payments. If you plan to live outside the United States, find out if you can receive Social Security payments by using the Payments Abroad Screening Tool.

Q: Can a person with a terminal illness qualify for disability benefits?

A: A person with a terminal illness may qualify for disability benefits. The requirements are the same as for a person with a non-terminal illness. The SSA makes every effort to identify a case involving a person with a potentially terminal illness as early in the claims process as possible so they tightly control the case throughout the claims process and make special efforts to assist the person.

Q: How can a widow or widower get disabled benefits?

A: A disabled widow or widower may be eligible for benefits if: 1.) The person is between ages 50 and 60; 2.) The person meets the definition of disability for adults; and 3.) The disability started before the worker's death or within seven years after death.

It is important to note that: If a widow or widower who is caring for the children of the deceased receives Social Security benefits, he or she is eligible if disability starts before those payments end or within seven years after they end.

To apply for benefits either: 1.) Complete the online Disability Report ; or 2.) Schedule an appointment to complete the application by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, or contact your local office .

Q: Can a child born outside of marriage receive benefits on a parents record?

A: A biological child born outside of marriage may qualify for Social Security benefits on a parent's record. To receive benefits, the child must have: 1.) A parent who is disabled or retired and entitled to Social Security benefits; or 2.) A parent who dies after having worked long enough in a job where he or she paid Social Security taxes. The child also must be: 1.) Unmarried; 2.) Younger than age 18; 3.) A full-time student, 18-19 years old (no higher than grade 12); or 4.) Disabled, 18 or older (the disability must have started before age 22). To apply for benefits or to receive an estimate of benefits call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Q: Can non-citizens receive Social Security benefits?

A: In certain cases, yes, and to qualify for benefits, all non-citizens first must meet the same eligibility requirements as United States citizens. Additionally, a noncitizen or alien worker assigned a Social Security number (SSN) on or after January 1, 2004 must meet additional eligibility requirements. If you are subject to this provision, neither you nor your dependents can qualify for benefits based on your earnings unless you meet one of the following: 1.) You were assigned an SSN based on your authorization to work in the United States at any time on or after January 1, 2004; or 2.) You were admitted to the United States at any time as a nonimmigrant visitor for business (B-1) or as an alien crewman (D-1 or D-2). Once an alien worker has met eligibility criteria, the SSA must have evidence of the lawful presence of the beneficiary which means before SSA can pay out benefits for any given month, the SSA must have evidence during that month the beneficiary was either: 1.) A United States citizen; 2.) A United States national; or 3.) An alien lawfully present in the United States.

Q: Can I file for disability under my deceased husband's Social Security number?

A: Benefits may be payable to a widow or widower with a disability if the following conditions are met: 1.) You are between ages 50 and 60; 2.) The widow or widower meets the definition of disability for adults; and 3.) The disability started before the worker's death or within seven years after death.

Q: Can an adult disabled since childhood receive benefits on a parent's earnings record?

A: Yes. An adult disabled before age 22 may be eligible for child’s benefits if a parent is deceased or receiving retirement or disability benefits and the SSA considers this a child’s benefit because it is paid on a parent’s Social Security earnings record. The SSA makes the disability decision using the disability rules for adults. The adult child including an adopted child or, in some cases, a stepchild, grandchild, or step-grandchild—must be unmarried, age 18 or older, and have a disability that started before age 22. For more information, see Benefits For Disabled Children.

More Frequently Asked Questions about Disability

Q: How can I change my address?

A: People receiving Social Security benefits and those enrolled in Medicare can create and use a my Social Security online account to change their address. This service is not currently available to people who also receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or do not have a U.S. mailing address. To use your account or create one, go to my Social Security-Sign In Or Create An Account. If you cannot go online or if you are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, you should contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 (1-800-325-0778 if you are deaf or hard-of-hearing).

Q: Do I have to pay income taxes on the benefits I receive?

A: You will have to pay Federal taxes on your Social Security benefits if you file a Federal tax return as an individual and your total income is more than $25,000. If you file a joint return, you will have to pay taxes if you and your spouse have a total income of more than $32,000. Use the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Notice 703 shown on the back of the Social Security Benefit Statement, SSA Form 1099, to determine if any of your benefits may be taxable. Social Security has no authority to withhold state or local taxes from your benefit. Many states and local authorities do not tax Social Security benefits. However, you should contact your state or local taxing authority for more information.

Q: How do I check the status of my application?

A: If you applied for benefits, you can check the status of your application  online. Your application status shows: 1.) The date the SSA received your application; 2.) Any requests for additional documents; 3.) The address of the office processing your application; and 4.) If a decision has been made. If you receive an error, it may be because: 1.) You entered an incorrect Social Security number or confirmation number; 2.) You did not complete the application; or 3.) We made a final decision on your application more than four months ago. If anything prevents you from checking your application status online, call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you live outside the United States, refer to Service Around the World.

Q: Will my Social Security disability benefits change when I reach full retirement age?

A: When you reach full retirement age , the SSA will automatically convert your disability benefits to retirement benefits so starting the month you reach retirement age, you will get benefits with no limit on your earnings.

Q: Do I automatically receive Medicare benefits if I'm eligible for disability benefits?

A: You will receive Medicare after you receive disability benefits for 24 months. When you become eligible for disability benefits, the SSA will automatically enroll you in Medicare and start counting the 24 months from the month you were entitled to receive disability, not the month when you received your first check. There are other specifics for Medicare so you should see this page of the SSA website for more detailed information.

Applying While Receiving Income

Q: Can I work and apply for Social Security disability benefits?

A: A person can work and apply for Social Security disability. It is important to note, however, that the SSA uses the term “substantial gainful activity” to describe a level of work activity and earnings, and they use substantial gainful activity as one of the factors to decide if you are eligible for disability benefits.

Q: How do workers' compensation or public disability benefit payments affect my Social Security disability payments?

A: Both workers' compensation and public disability benefit payments may reduce you and your family's Social Security benefits.

  • Workers' compensation defined:  A workers' compensation benefit payment is made to a worker because of a job-related injury or illness.  It may be paid by federal or state workers' compensation agencies, employers, or insurance companies on behalf of employers.
  • Public disability benefit defined:   Public disability benefit payments that may affect your Social Security benefit are those paid under a federal, state or local government law plan.  Examples are civil service disability benefits,  temporary state disability benefits, and state or local government retirement benefits based on disability. 
  • Social Security disability benefit reduction:  The Social Security disability benefits you and your family receive are reduced if the combined total amount, plus your workers' compensation payment, plus any public disability benefit payment you receive exceeds 80 percent of your average pre-injury/illness earnings. 

For more information, see How Workers' Compensation And Other Disability Payments May Affect Your Benefits.

Q: I have a private disability insurance, will it reduce my Social Security disability benefit?

A: Any private disability insurance you have will not affect your eligibility for Social Security disability benefits. However, you may be interested to know worker's compensation and certain other public disability payments may affect your Social Security benefit. See also: How Workers' Compensation And Other Disability Payments May Affect Your Benefits.

Working While Disabled

Q: Can I work without losing my Social Security disability benefits?

A: Special rules allow you to work temporarily without losing your monthly Social Security disability benefits. For example, the SSA's trial work period allows you to test your ability to work for at least nine months without losing benefits. As long as you remain disabled, you can get full Social Security disability benefits during those nine months no matter how much you earn. After your nine-month trial work period, the SSA will still provide a safety net that allows you to work another three years risk free. During those three years, you can work and still receive benefits for any month in which your earnings do not exceed the following limits: 1.) $1,800 for blind individuals; or 2.) $1,070 a month if you are not blind.

Watch an informational video here.

 See also:

Working While Disabled - How We Can Help

Welcome To The Work Site

Q: What is the Ticket to Work Program?

A: The Ticket to Work Program provides most people receiving Social Security benefits more choices for receiving employment services. Social Security has contracted with MAXIMUS, Inc. to serve as the Operations Support Manager for the Ticket Program. You can get information about the Employment Network, eligibility information and ticket issuance and replacement by contacting MAXIMUS at 1-866-968-7842 (TTY 1-866-833-2976) between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Q: If I become eligible for disability can I get vocational rehabilitation?

A: Yes, under the Ticket to Work program you would be eligible to receive free services from a provider of your choice. This could be an Employment Network (EN) or a State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency. The EN/State VR agency, if they agree to work with you, will coordinate and provide appropriate services to help you find and maintain employment. These services may be training, career counseling, vocational rehabilitation, job placement and ongoing support services necessary to achieve your work goal.

For more information about vocational rehabilitation please read: Your Ticket to Work , or call our Ticket to Work help line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY).