Your Legal Rights at Work

Social Security Disability Insurance: What You Need To Know

by Lewis Hamilton

When you suffer from an injury or illness that leaves you unable to work, your financial situation is going to become difficult unless you're able to obtain an alternate source of income. To help alleviate this problem, the government has created the Social Security Disability Insurance program, also known as SSDI, to give eligible disabled people a means of supporting themselves. This article examines some key facts about SSDI that everyone should know.


You must meet certain requirements to gain acceptance into the SSDI program. First, your disability must be so severe that it's expected to last for at least 12 months or is expected to be fatal. The disability must also make it impossible for you to work. This latter requirement means that not only are you unable to perform your current job, but also that you are not able to perform any type of substantial employment or "substantial gainful activity" at all.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is not, of course, simply going to accept your assertion that you are unable to work due to a disability, so you will need to back up your claim with a variety of evidence, such as a report from your doctor or doctors, medical records from any clinics or hospitals where you have been treated, and any relevant laboratory results.

Onset Date

When you apply for SSDI, the SSA will attempt to determine exactly when your disability started. This date is known as the "onset date." This determination is important because it will impact how much you receive in benefits. If you can show the SSA  that your onset date is prior to your application date, you are likely to receive more back pay if your application is approved. When you are disabled due to a traumatic injury, demonstrating your onset date to the SSA is relatively straightforward. If your disability occurred over time, you will need medical evidence to support the onset date you assert on your application.

Other Benefits

A question that often arises in discussions about SSDI payments is whether a person on SSDI can receive other benefits. The answer is yes, depending on the type of benefits involved. For example, you can receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments and Department of Veterans Affairs disability benefits at the same time you get SSDI. You may also receive worker's compensation benefits simultaneously with SSDI, although your SSDI payments might be reduced in some cases.

To learn more about getting approved for the SSDI program, consult a Social Security disability laywer.