When most Americans refer to “social security,” they mean old age, survivors and disability insurance (OASDI). OASDI is funded by workers in the form of payroll deductions. The program provides benefits to retirees, but also to people with disabilities.
To receive retirement benefits, you must be 62 for partial benefits, or 65-67 for full benefits. If you were born before 1950, you can receive full benefits at age 65. If you were born between 1950 and 1960, you become eligible for full benefits at age 66, and those born after 1960 become eligible for full benefits at age 67.
To receive OASDI benefits before retirement age, you must be completely disabled and unable to work.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides financial assistance to people who are unable to work due to a long-term disability. The benefit is available to people who have paid into the Social Security system for at least 5 of the last 10 years prior to sustaining an injury.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is similar to SSDI, but is only available to people who are disabled and do not have a consistent work history. In other words, if you haven’t worked long enough to be eligible for SSDI, you could be eligible for SSI.
Who is considered disabled?
To be eligible for disability benefits (through OASDI, SSDI, or SSI), you must be “totally disabled.” The SSA considers you totally disabled if:
- You cannot do the work you did before your injury or illness,
- You are unable to adjust to any other job due to your injury or illness, and
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last at least 1 year or cause death.
There is a long list of conditions that automatically qualify you for Social Security disability benefits, but you could also qualify based on a condition that is not listed if you can show that it is serious enough to meet the criteria for the SSA.