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Social Security Disability Insurance – A Full Overview

by Ryan Kinnar5 min read
Social Security Disability Insurance

The Social Security Disability Insurance program is one of the two federal disability benefits programs that is managed by the Social Security Administration. The other program is called the Supplemental Security Income program. Together, these two programs are the two largest federal aid programs for people with disabilities.


So what is the Social Security Disability Insurance program?

Also abbreviated to SSDI or sometimes just SSD, this program is designed for those claimants who have become disabled before reaching retirement age and are not able to work. It is also called “Workers Disability”. A monthly income and health care is provided to such beneficiaries.


How do you qualify for the Social Security Disability Insurance Program?

  1. The first criterion for eligibility is to be insured. To be “insured” means that you were working in a job where you paid Social Security or FICA taxes. For each year that you worked in such a job, you can earn up to 4 “work credits”. The amount you need to have earned to qualify for a work credit is calculated annually. Therefore, in 2016, you needed to earn $1,300 to earn 1 work credit. To be awarded all 4 work credits for the year, you needed to earn $5,200. As you grow older, you need more work credits to qualify for the Social Security Disability Insurance
  2. There are two tests involving work credit you need to clear –
    1. The “Recent Work Test”
    2. The “Duration of Work Test”


Basically, these two tests administered by the Social Security Administration office will check the number of years you worked before you became disabled as well as whether you have accumulated the required number of work credits to be eligible for the Social Security Disabled Insurance program. You can visit Social Security Disability Work Credits for further information about these two tests.


  1. You can have other sources of income like investments, assets or unearned income when you are enrolled in the Social Security Disability Insurance program. However, there is a limit to the amount you can earn through work if you are receiving any kind of social security benefit. The logic is simple. If you can earn a decent income, then you are not considered disabled and so, not eligible for benefits. The Social Security Administration has coined a term for this – “Substantial Gainful Activity” (SGA). The income limit for calculating the SGA every year is based on the annual national average wage index. For 2017, disabled claimants get $1,170 per month, while blind claimants receive $1,950 per month. Business owners’ payouts are calculated differently as their monthly income may not really give a true reflection of the work effort made. You can get a clearer idea of what exactly the Social Security Administration terms “Substantial Gainful Activity” at Disability Definition.


For further details on Social Security Disability Insurance, you can visit  SSA Social Security Disability Insurance – FAQs.