Will Social Security Cover You if You Become Disabled?

Typical American workers face around a 20% chance of becoming disabled for at least a three month period during their working life. Far too few workers have disability insurance policies, and a worker who becomes disabled without insurance to replace his income could experience substantial financial hardship.

The good news is, Social Security does operate a disability benefits program to provide income to disabled workers. In fact, there are two separate programs you could potentially receive income from if you're too disabled to work: Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance.

The problem is, both have strict qualification requirements and high denial rates. The difficulty in becoming eligible for benefits means Social Security Disability may not cover you if something goes wrong. 

Your options for Social Security Disability benefits

Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) is a dedicated program aimed at providing protection for long-term disabled workers. SSDI is funded through payroll tax deductions and you earn work credits when you earn your paychecks.

If you've earned a sufficient number of work credits at the time of your disability -- the number varies based on age -- SSDI is the benefits program to turn to if you're disabled.  SSDI is not a means-tested program; even wealthy disabled workers are entitled to benefits. Your monthly SSDI income is determined based on how much you paid in while working and you can check your benefit amount at SSA.gov.

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