Social Security Disability Law (SSD/SSI)

Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income - SSDI/SSI Law

What is Social Security Disability Law?

Social Security disability law consists of the rules used to decide who will qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, and how much money they will receive. Because these are federal programs, state and local laws do not apply. The rules can be found in the Social Security Act as it appears in Title 42 of the United States Code, as well as in the published regulations and rulings of the Social Security Administration (SSA).

SSDI benefits are meant for adults who become disabled and unable to work for at least one year. Benefits are only available to those who have paid a sufficient amount into the system (through payroll taxes), and have not yet reached retirement age. Dependents of people receiving SSDI may qualify for benefits as well. SSI serves a different purpose. It is designed for disabled people with little or no income, regardless of whether they have paid anything into the system.

Requirements for Disability Benefits

Eligibility requirements for SSDI and SSI are very specific. For SSDI, the threshold qualification involves the number of “work credits” the applicant has accumulated prior to becoming disabled. Work credits are based on the applicant’s earnings. Each time the applicant earns a certain amount of wages or self-employment income, he or she receives one work credit (as of 2013, it takes $1,160 of earnings to receive one work credit).

A maximum of four work credits can be earned in any given calendar year. To be eligible for SSDI benefits, the applicant must have a total of 40 credits, and 20 of these must have been earned in the 10-year period leading up to the application date.

To receive SSDI, the applicant must also be “disabled.” SSA considers people to be disabled if they cannot work in their field or adjust to another field of employment, due to a severe medical impairment. An applicant may qualify based on a single impairment, or a combination. Either way, the inability to work must be complete, and long-term.

For SSI, eligibility is based on income level, not work credits. An applicant must have an income level below a certain amount known as the federal benefit rate, or “FBR” (as of 2013, the FBR is $710 per month). Calculating the FBR is complex. For example, only a portion of income earned by working will be used in the calculation. At the same time, FBR will include the value of any in-kind services the applicant receives, such as free rent or meals.

How to File a Claim

Disability applications can be started online, by phone, or in-person at the nearest social security office. A great deal of personal information is required to complete the application, most of which deals with the applicant’s medical condition and work history. Applicants should be ready to provide a description of their doctors and other care providers, medications, and lab results. SSA will also ask about previous jobs, and request copies of the applicant’s W-2s and tax returns.

Appealing an Unfavorable Decision

On average, SSA only approves about 30% of initial claims for disability benefits. For those who persevere, however, the odds improve significantly. Applicants who are denied benefits can appeal the decision through multiple stages of administrative review. During the appeal process, applicants are permitted to submit additional medical records, thereby strengthening their case, and giving SSA a reason to reverse its decision.

The first level of review is called a “reconsideration.” A relatively small number of cases are won at this level, and in some states the reconsideration stage has been done away with altogether. Following the reconsideration, if there is one, the case will be submitted to an administrative law judge (ALJ).The ALJ will hold a short, informal hearing during which the applicant can present testimony and other evidence. Hearings are not adversarial in nature, although a vocational expert may appear on behalf of the SSA.

Approximately 60% of previously denied claims are granted by the ALJ. But if this does not occur, the applicant can continue on in the appeals process. The next stage is to submit the case to the Appeals Council. Applicants do not appear in front of the Appeals Council. Rather, this consists of a final review of the file by members of the SSA, from their offices in Falls Church, Virginia. If a claim is still not granted, the applicant can file an appeal in federal court.

Advantages of Hiring a Disability Lawyer

There is nothing wrong with filing an initial disability claim on your own. But if your claim is denied and you decide to appeal, your chances of success will greatly improve if you hire a lawyer. Most SSDI and SSI lawyers charge nothing up front, and they only get paid if you win. Contact an attorney now to learn more.


Know your Rights!

Articles About Social Security Disability

  • 5 Myths about SSD Recipients
    As soon as people enter the workforce, a portion of every paycheck is deducted for the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund. During a lifetime, workers earn up to four “credits” per year, based on the number of hours they work and their income. If workers develop a disability, they will need a minimum number of credits to be eligible for SSD benefits.
  • Can a Recent Medical Diagnosis Make an Employment Contract Voidable?
    When confronted with a medical condition that makes work difficult or impossible, it is important to consult with a supervisor and explain the situation fully. However, if the employer is unwilling to let the worker out of an employment contract, it may be necessary to hire a lawyer and resolve the matter through a different type of solution.
  • What Are the Different Types of Veteran Disability Benefits?
    Veteran disability benefits are compensation methods used to provide monetary assistance to persons that have been in war. These are to recognize the disabilities, acquired diseases, injuries and health conditions that soldiers have experienced through active service while on duty.
  • No-Pets Policy and Emotional Support Animals
    The right to have an emotional support animal often depends on if the individual has a disability or if the emotional support animal is to assist with those that have severe emotional or psychological issues. When the individual has a disability, he or she usually has the right to bring this creature with him or her in most circumstances.
  • Basics of Social Security Retirement Benefits
    Retired workers and various family members are entitled to Social Security Retirement Benefits.
  • Disability Benefits for Lyme Disease
    Tick infestations have become rampant in recent years, and the effects of a tick bite can be debilitating. Ticks bites can cause a nasty bacterial infection called Lyme disease, which can manifest a number of complications.
  • If I Relocate Overseas Permanently, do I Lose my SSDI Benefits?
    Social Security Disability is available to those that are elderly, disabled or have qualified for the benefits. There are many specific requirements, and it is easy to miss a filing deadline that may cancel or limit monetary assistance.
  • What are the Rules about Collecting Child Support from Someone who Receives SSI or SSDI?
    Child support is collected from the parent that earns the most income from work or other projects. The amount and stipulations on what is considered part of this may vary state by state, and there are various factors that determine how much is garnered from the individual for spousal or child support.
  • How Federal Debts May Affect Your SSD Paycheck
    Now that you’ve gone through the Social Security disability process and started receiving your monthly benefits, you are free to use the money however you’d like. In most cases, the payments are deposited into your bank account, put onto a prepaid card, or sent to your home by check.
  • Which is Best for My Handicapped Child’s Education, a 504 Plan or an IEP?
    Determining which plan is better for a child with special education needs depends on various factors. An IEP is an individualized education program designed to improve the school experience with services that meet the needs of children that require additional or alternate help.
  • All Health Care and Social Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Health Care and Social including: defective drugs, failure to diagnose, informed consent, medical law, medical malpractice, medication errors, pharmaceutical law, social security, social services law, surgical errors.

Social Security Disability - US

  • Americans with Disabilities Act - US Department of Justice

    To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability or have a relationship or association with an individual with a disability. An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.

  • Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act)

    Originally authorized in 1963, and last reauthorized in 2000, the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act), Public Law 106-402, focuses on the needs of the estimated 4.5 million individuals with developmental disabilities. The DD Act ensures that individuals with developmental disabilities participate fully in their communities through full integration and inclusion in the economic, political, social, cultural, religious and educational sectors of our society. The DD Act further ensures that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families participate in the design of and have access to culturally competent services, supports and other assistance and opportunities that promote independence, productivity, integration and inclusion in the community.

  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004)

    The major purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act is to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living. The many changes align the provisions of IDEA with No Child Left Behind.

  • Rehabilitation Act - Section 508

    Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Inaccessible technology interferes with an individual's ability to obtain and use information quickly and easily. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508 (29 U.S.C. ‘ 794d), agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others. It is recommended that you review the laws and regulations listed below to further your understanding about Section 508 and how you can support implementation.

  • Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973 - US Department of Labor

    No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 706 (20) of this title, shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service. The head of each such agency shall promulgate such regulations as may be necessary to carry out the amendments to this section made by the Rehabilitation, Comprehensive Services, and Development Disabilities Act of 1978. Copies of any proposed regulations shall be submitted to appropriate authorizing committees of the Congress, and such regulation may take effect no earlier than the thirtieth day after the date of which such regulation is so submitted to such committees.

  • Social Security Disability Insurance Program - US Social Security Administration

    The Social Security Disability Insurance program pays benefits to you and certain family members if you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. Your adult child also may qualify for benefits on your earnings record if he or she has a disability that started before age 22. Learn more about SSDI on the SSA website.

  • SSDI - Social Security Disability Insurance Overview

    Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a payroll tax-funded, federal insurance program. A portion of the FICA taxes you pay are set aside for SSDI (as well as Social Security Retirement and Medicare). SSDI, which was established in 1954, is designed to provide you with income if you are unable to work due to a disability or until your condition improves, and guarantees income if your condition does not improve. Then once you meet your retirement age – 65 or older – you move from SSDI to Social Security retirement income.

  • Supplemental Secruity Income - US Social Security Administration

    The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources. Learn more about SSI Benefits on the SSA website.

Social Security Disability - Europe

  • EU Social Protection Systems in Member States - MISSOC

    The Mutual Information System on Social Protection (MISSOC) was established in 1990 to promote a continuous exchange of information on social protection among the EU Member States. MISSOC has become a central information source on social protection legislation, benefits and financing in the European countries that take part in MISSOC. It is used by citizens to get basic information about social protection in other countries, and to compare this with the social protection in the home country, for instance when preparing for moving to another country. It is also used by researchers and students to compare social protection systems and solutions in several countries in more detail, and it also allows studying changes in social protection over time.

  • European Commission - Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities - People with Disabilities

    As full citizens, people with disabilities have equal rights and are entitled to dignity, equal treatment, independent living and full participation in society. Enabling people with disabilities to enjoy these rights is the main purpose of the EU's long-term strategy for their active inclusion. Centre piece of the European Disability Strategy (2004-2010) is the Disability Action Plan (DAP).

  • European Disability Forum (EDF)

    The European Disability Forum (EDF) is an independent European non-governmental organisation (ENGO) that represents the interests of 65 million disabled people in the European Union and stands for their rights. EDF is the only European platform of disabled people, which is run by disabled people or the families of disabled people unable to represent themselves. EDF’s mission is to promote equal opportunities for disabled people and to protect their Human Rights, making sure that no decisions concerning disabled people are taken without disabled people.

  • The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) UK

    The Disability Discrimination Act is a piece of legislation that promotes civil rights for disabled people and protects disabled people from discrimination. You can order a copy of the Act in a range of formats.

Publications For Security Disability Law

  • A Guide to Disability Rights Laws

    This guide provides an overview of Federal civil rights laws that ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities. To find out more about how these laws may apply to you, contact the agencies and organizations listed below.

  • Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Benefits

    CPP Disability is part of the Canada Pension Plan. It is designed to provide financial assistance to CPP contributors who are unable to work because of a severe and prolonged disability. Benefits are paid monthly to eligible applicants and their dependent children. The CPP disability benefit is administered by Social Development Canada (SDC), a federal government department.

  • Disability Support Pension - Australia

    Social Security, in Australia, refers to a system of social welfare payments provided by Commonwealth Government of Australia. These payments are administered by a Government body named Centrelink. In Australia, most benefits are subject to a means test. Centrelink is an Australian Government Statutory Agency, assisting people to become self-sufficient and supporting those in need.

  • Disability-Related Policy Canada

    The Dis-IT Research Alliance is a group of researchers, community members, and industry representatives who are looking at how new technologies shape the lives of Canadians with disabilities, both by creating new benefits and barriers, in terms of employment, post-secondary education, retail and public services, and democratic participation. The project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

  • Facts About the Americans with Disabilities Act

    Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations. The ADA’s nondiscrimination standards also apply to federal sector employees under section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, and its implementing rules.

  • International Social Security Association (ISSA)

    The International Social Security Association (ISSA) is the principal international institution bringing together social security agencies and organizations. The ISSA’s aim is to promote dynamic social security as the social dimension in a globalizing world by supporting excellence in social security administration. Founded in 1927, the ISSA Secretariat has its headquarters at the International Labour Office, in Geneva.

  • United Nations - Enable - International Norms and Standards Related to Disability

    Despite the statistical existence of unemployment in every country in the world, work continues to be an essential part of the human condition. For many, it represents the primary source of income upon which their physical survival depends. Not only is it crucial to the enjoyment of survival rights such as food, clothing, or housing, it affects the level of satisfaction of many other human rights, such as the rights to education, culture and health. Many persons with disabilities are denied employment or given only menial or poorly remunerated jobs. This is true even though it can be demonstrated that with proper assessment, training and placement, the great majority of disabled persons can perform a large range of tasks in accordance with the prevailing work norms. In times of unemployment and economic distress, disabled persons are usually the first to be discharged and the last to be hired. Therefore, measures are needed to ensure that disabled persons have equal opportunities for productive and gainful employment in the open labour market.

Organizations For Social Security Disability Law

  • Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs

    ATAP was established in 1997 to provide support to state AT Program members to enhance the effectiveness of AT Programs on the state and local level, and promote the national network of AT Programs. ATAP facilitates the coordination of state AT Programs nationally and provides technical assistance and support to its members. ATAP represents the needs and interests of the state AT Programs and is the national voice of the AT Programs.

  • is an award-winning federal Web site that contains disability-related resources on programs, services, laws and regulations to help people with disabilities lead full, independent lives. With just a few clicks, visitors can find critical information on a variety of topics, including benefits, civil rights, community life, education, emergency preparedness, employment, housing, health, technology and transportation.

  • Disabled World

    From persons who are newly disabled to those born with a disability; Disabled World features over 400 categories containing in excess of 30,000 pages of Informative Articles, News Stories, and a free Disability Community, providing seniors, baby boomers and the health impaired with a wealth of disability resources, information, help, and assistance. Read the latest Editorial Views and opinions in regards to health, health care, and disability news topics presented by a selection of well known authors and Disability Activists.

  • National Association of Disability Examiners (NADE)

    NADE's Purpose: To develop the art and science of disability evaluation. To enhance public awareness about disability evaluation. To further professional recognition for disability evaluation practitioners.

  • National Association of Disability Representatives

    For many years, Professional Social Security Claimants Representatives have wanted to have an organization that would be interested in their issues, educational opportunities, and interests. In March of 2000, 35 Professional Social Security Claimants Representatives met in St. Louis, MO and formed NADR, Inc. They chose our name and established the following goals: 1. Conduct Annual Conventions open to members and non-members with educational seminars to keep practitioners up to date on Social Security rulings, regulatory changes and practice improvements. 2. Create a free national referral service for claimants seeking representation and information about Social Security Disability, Continuing Disability Reviews and over payment and underpayment problems. 3. Seek status as an approved, "not-for-profit" organization with the IRS and Social Security offices nationwide in order to fulfill our stated mission. 4. Create a "talk list" where our members can discuss problems, pass information and learn from each other on a daily basis.

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