When you work, you pay taxes. Some of these taxes go into the federal government’s Social Security trust fund. Social Security uses this money to pay monthly benefits to retired seniors and to adults with disabilities who can no longer work.

If you or a qualifying family member have paid Social Security taxes for a long enough time and you have to stop working because of a disability, the federal government will pay you monthly cash benefits called Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). For SSDI, there are no resource limits — what matters is that you've worked long enough and now have a disability that meets Social Security's standards.

If you qualify, the amount of SSDI benefits you get is based on your Social Security earnings record. The more you’ve worked and the more you’ve paid in Social Security taxes, the higher your benefits will be. After getting SSDI benefits for two years, you automatically become eligible for Medicare health coverage.

More than eight million people under age 65 get SSDI benefits because their disabilities or health conditions prevent them from working.

Don't get SSDI mixed up with other programs

Social Security has two disability benefits programs with very similar names:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) gives cash benefits to people with disabilities who qualify because they used to work or have a parent who worked. SSDI is explained in this article.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) gives cash benefits to people with disabilities who have low income and low resources. You do not need to have worked in the past to get SSI. Learn more in DB101’s SSI article.

Some people qualify for both programs at the same time. If you get benefits from Social Security, but aren't sure which ones you get, order a free Benefits Planning Query (BPQY) at your local Social Security office or by calling 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY).

Get Expert Help

If you have questions about SSDI and need to talk with somebody, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY) or visit your local Social Security office.

If you want to ask about how work might affect your SSDI benefits, try contacting: