Benefits and Insurance for People with Disabilities

Find information about health care coverage including Medicare and Medicaid. Also, learn about workplace disability insurance, compensation benefits for disabled veterans and Social Security benefits for people with disabilities.

Short-Term and Long-Term Disability Insurance

Disability insurance protects individuals and their families from financial hardship when illness or injury prevents them from earning a living. Many employers offer some form of disability coverage to employees, or you can buy an individual disability insurance policy. 

Types of Disability Policies

There are two types of disability policies:

  • Short-term disability policies have a maximum benefit of two years.

  • Long-term disability policies have benefits that can last the rest of your life.

Employers may offer short-term disability coverage, long-term disability coverage, or integrate both of these as part of a competitive employee benefits package. When purchasing individual disability insurance coverage, you should ask: 

  • How is disability defined?

  • When do benefits begin?

  • How long do benefits last?

  • What dollar amount is promised?

Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income Programs

Both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration and are the largest of several federal programs that offer assistance to people with disabilities.

Social Security Benefits for People with Disabilities

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two programs that provide benefits to people with disabilities:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI is for people who have earned enough Social Security work credits within a certain time period

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is for people with disabilities or who are 65 or older with little to no income and resources. Although the Social Security Administration runs the SSI program, SSI is not Social Security. It is funded separately from Social Security and SSDI. 

Definition of Disability

To qualify for either program as a person with a disability, you must meet SSA’s definition of disability, which says:

  • You can’t work, and

  • Your disability is expected to last for at least one year or result in death

Social Security uses a step-by-step process to decide if you have a disability. Partial and short-term disabilities do not meet SSA’s standard and are not eligible for benefits.

Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool

You can use the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool to find out quickly whether you may be eligible for SSDI or SSI disability benefits.

Learn More About Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Work Requirements

When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn Social Security “work credits,” up to four a year depending on your income. To be eligible for SSDI, you must have accumulated a certain number of work credits, some of them relatively recently. The number of work credits you need is based on your age when you stopped working due to your disability.

Benefits for Family Members

Your spouse or former spouse and your children may be eligible for benefits when you start receiving SSDI in some situations.

Applying for SSDI

You can apply for benefits online, by phone, or in person.

Returning to Work

You can generally return to work without losing your SSDI benefits if you earn less than what SSA considers a “substantial” amount. In 2018, average earnings of $1,180 or more per month are usually considered substantial.

You can try out your ability to return to work for at least nine months without losing your SSDI benefits or Medicare coverage. See the booklet Working While Disabled: How We Can Help for more information.

Learn More About Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI benefits are for adults and children with a disability who have little income or resources. Seniors 65 and older without a disability may be eligible for benefits if they meet the income limits. People who are eligible to receive SSDI may be eligible for SSI too.

In most states, people who receive SSI also receive Medicaid coverage. Many states also provide supplemental payments to certain SSI recipients.

Defining Disability for SSI

Adults under 65 must meet SSA’s definition of disability.

For a child, disability means:

  • Having a physical or mental impairment that causes marked and severe functional limitations

  • The disability is expected to last for at least one year or result in death

Applying for SSI

Adults can apply for SSI by phone, in person at a local Social Security office, or in some cases online. To apply for SSI for a child, you can start the process online but will need to complete it either in person or by phone.

Explore this listing of SSI topics to learn more detailed information.

Going to Work

SSI work incentives can help you go to work by lowering the chances that you’ll lose your SSI benefit or Medicaid coverage. You can earn $65 a month without it affecting your cash benefit. Beyond that, your SSI payment will go down $1 for every $2 you earn.

When your earnings, combined with any other income you have, exceed your state’s SSI income limits, your SSI payments will stop for those months. Your payments will start again for any month your income drops to less than the SSI limits. You can learn more in the booklet Working While Disabled: How We Can Help.

Health Insurance and Health Resources for People with Disabilities

Health Coverage for People With Disabilities

If you have a disability, you have a number of options for health coverage through the government. 

Health Resources for People With Disabilities

Federal, state, and local government agencies and programs can help with your health needs if you have a disability. 

Visit USA.gov’s Government Benefits page to learn more about government programs and services that can help you and your family.

VA Disability Compensation Benefits

Veterans who are disabled due to service-related injury or illness may be entitled to VA disability compensation. It’s a tax-free monthly benefit. 

Survivors of veterans may receive compensation benefits in certain situations. 

Visit VA.gov to learn:

  • Which conditions qualify you for benefits
  • How the claims process works
  • Where to file your claim
  • The way to appeal a decision you disagree with 
     

If you're currently receiving disability benefits, you may be interested in downloading the free publication How to Save and Invest Your Disability Benefits: A Guide for Warriors in Transition.

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Last Updated: December 26, 2018