We often talk about disability in stark, dualistic terms, as though the world contains only the permanently abled and the permanently disabled and no one in between. In fact, many people become disabled at some point in their lives due to illness or injury and then recover.
With that in mind, it’s important to remember that Social Security Disability Insurance isn’t a charity program for a certain class of people: It’s an insurance program open to almost all American workers. The program is funded through payroll taxes. If a worker has sufficiently paid into the system and later becomes disabled, they can be eligible for receiving benefits. The benefit amount is based upon the salary they earned while they were able to work.
One year or longer
Another important fact is that under the definitions used by the Social Security Administration, the disability must be one that lasts one year or more. Other programs, such as workers’ compensation, may provide benefits for disabilities that last for less than a year.
Once a disabled person starts receiving Social Security Disability benefits, they may continue receiving them for as long as they need them, up to age 65. At that age, the disability benefits cease and Social Security retirement benefits kick in.
However, many disability benefits recipients eventually recover enough that they decide to return to work. In fact, the Social Security Administration offers a program called Ticket To Work, which helps people in the disability benefits program to secure appropriate work. Once these individuals are working enough to earn more than a specified amount, the SSA determines they no longer need the benefits.
Often, people are intimidated by the thought of applying for Social Security Disability benefits because they hope their condition will not be permanent, and they don’t want to join a permanent program.