disability assistance

Does the SSA Offer Disability Assistance?

Important: We updated this article in February 2023 to make sure all info below is both current and correct. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers disability assistance for many disabled individuals. Americans who can’t work due to a disability expected to last at least one year (or result in death) may qualify for monthly benefits. There are a number of different Social Security disability assistance programs and stipulations, which can be confusing.

The SSA Offers 4 Different Disability Assistance Options

If you’re looking for disability assistance from the SSA, below are a few ideas and suggestions to get you started:

Option 1: Monthly SSDI Income

If you qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), the SSA uses your average lifetime earnings before your disability began to determine your monthly pay rate. (Your injuries, illnesses or symptoms have no influence on your monthly benefit amount.) The maximum monthly SSDI amount for 2023 is $3,627, but most individuals get $1,483/month, on average.

Very simply, the SSA’s formula in determining SSDI accounts for inflation and looks at your highest earnings throughout your employment history. Then, they add up your three highest wage-earning years and use that number to determine your monthly pay rate. The higher your past earnings, the more SSDI pay you can receive each month. For an in-depth breakdown of the process or get your own SSDI estimate, use the SSA’s benefit calculator. If you’re already getting government-regulated disability assistance (like workers’ comp or temporary state benefits), the SSA reduces your SSDI amount. However, SSI and VA benefits do not reduce your SSDI.

Option 2: Medicare Health Coverage

Medicare is government-provided health insurance for Americans age 65 and older. Medicare helps with your medical expenses but doesn’t cover everything. If the SSA awards you Social Security benefits, Medicare covers “hospital insurance” for free starting 24 months after your SSD benefits begin. This coverage includes hospital bills and stays in skilled nursing facilities following your hospitalization discharge. Medicare offers “medical insurance” to help cover bills, medical equipment, doctor visits, etc. However, you must pay a monthly premium for this extra coverage.

After you receive disability assistance through SSDI for two years, the SSA automatically grants you Medicare coverage. Since you paid taxes while you were still working to cover these services, your hospital insurance is technically “free.” But if you want medical insurance to cover any other healthcare-related costs, you will need to pay an extra monthly premium.

Option 3: SSDI Back Pay

Disability claims usually take months (in some cases, even years) for the SSA to process. Most people awarded benefits also get back pay — i.e., money they should have received during the application review process. How much back pay you receive depends on factors such as:

The SSA considers all criteria listed above while it determines your eligibility and establishes your disability’s onset date. For SSDI — not Supplemental Security Income (SSI) — you could get more benefits from the year before you filed your claim. This timeframe is known as the “retroactive period.” To qualify for retroactive benefits, you must prove your disability began more than five months prior to your application date.

Option 4: Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is different from SSDI because it is a needs-based program. For SSI, your employment history and previously paid Social Security taxes aren’t considered as qualifying factors. Instead, SSI provides monthly benefits to disabled, elderly, and blind Americans who meet the SSA’s income and asset limits. Typically, you must have assets totaling less than $2,000 (not including your home and land) to qualify for SSI. In addition, your household income cannot total more than $1,470 per month in 2023. For more information about income and resource guidelines, read about the SSI program’s eligibility requirements.

In most cases, a Social Security advocate or attorney can give you the best possible chance of winning benefits from the SSA. Best of all, you’ll pay nothing unless they help you win disability assistance income and benefits from the SSA. Plus, having a lawyer file your claim almost triples your approval chances to receive SSD benefits!

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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.