The Truth About Social Security Disability Insurance

Difference between SSI & SSDI

Many people are not aware that there is a difference between Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Social Security Insurance (SSI). Social Security Insurance is just that –A federal system that one involuntarily pays into while working, in order to receive retirement benefits at the prescribed age. The average Social Security income ranges in the between $800-1000 per month, depending on the amount one earned while one worked. There are various persons who may receive SSI OR SSDI benefits. For example you can be the son or daughter or spouse of someone who is deceased that worked and paid into the system and received SSI or SSDI.

SSDI Primary recipients

There are basically two types of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The most common type is for individuals who are severely and permanently disabled from birth or before the age of 22. The second type is for those who become disabled after the age of 22. In both cases the disability has to be verified by medical professionals with documentation approximately every one-two years.  Temporary disabilities, such as injuries, usually don’t qualify one to receive SSDI benefits.

Who decides Social Security Disability Insurance eligibility?

The Social Security system is so overwhelmed, that most of the time one has to prove their case of disability beyond a shadow of a doubt. In essence one is considered an able bodied worker, capable of taking care of his or her basic needs, until there is an insurmountable amount of information and documentation that validates ones claim of disability.
Eligibility is usually determined by a state agency known as Disability Determination Service (DDS) not to be confused with the Department of Developmental Services who oversees services for persons with mental disabilities.

SSDI Eligibility requirements.

The four basic questions that Social Security asks and wants proof of are the following: First, is your medical condition so severe that it keeps you from working? If not is your medical condition on the List of Impairments or comparable to a condition on the list? Thirdly, are you able do the same type of work previously done? If not, are you able to do any type of work?

How  SSI& SSDI works

The Social Security Administration will go through many lengths to disqualify and prolong the process of eligibility. If you are as seriously as ill as social security requires you to be, in order to receive a disability check, answering the many questions and corresponding with doctors becomes a very difficult process to navigate. The Social Security Administration claims that they will gather the information for you but in reality they can use the absence of information as a way to delay making a decision about your case. At this point I strongly suggest getting an advocate to secure information on your behalf.
Can be degrading and illogical system

The most degrading part about the entire process is for hard working individuals, who have paid into the system to have their integrity and intentions questioned. Now think about this logically. If you could work and earn three times or even one and a half times that of social security would you rather do that or just sit at home and collect minimal check? Ok there are a few simple minded people without a work ethic who might make that decision. But for the most part, people who have a history of working 10-15 years would not make that decision intentionally. Let’s weigh the logic in that.  Should I give up my $20,000-30,000 a year income for a $12,000 a year income? Mmmm…tough decision.

The Social Security Disability Insurance Disability Trap

The bottom line is this. Social Security Disability Insurance is only for the most severe cases of disability. It is the Social Security Administration’s job to determine weather your situation qualifies you for a disability check. To make matters worse they are making these decisions in the most severe of economic times.  Before applying for social security disability ask yourself some tough reflective questions.  Am I injured or impaired to the point where I can not sit, stand or move my extremities enough to work or take care of myself? If I don’t receive the disability check will I be able to survive some other way? Are there simple remedies or actions that I can take that will improve my situation? Am I willing to do what it takes to get healthy?  If there is a remote possibility that you can do any of these things to help your situation it is far easier to pursue them than to get caught in the social security disabilities benefits trap?

Mind over matter example

The social security trap I refer to is a psychosomatic theory by which being involved with social security perpetuates your condition and leaves you dependent on the system. For example, let’s say you work as a cashier and are diagnosed with a condition that limits your ability to stand or sit for longer than 20 minutes at a time. You apply for SSDI and your condition is confirmed by a physician. After 15 years of working, you settle into a routine of not working. You become lethargic a little restless and maybe slightly depressed. After about 7 months, you begin a new water therapy and vitamin that relieves the pain and improves your condition.

Redetermination Social Security Disability Insurance trap

Shortly after that, your social security redetermination papers arrive. This is a process where you have to prove weather or not you’re still disabled. Ergo the beginnings of the disability trap.  Consciously or sub-consciously, you make a decision as to weather or not you’re well enough to return to work. The doctors are supposed to make this decision but you really make it by what and how you report to the doctors. That’s why SSA requires physical evidence and documentation.

Proving you’re still disabled trap

Even though you feel better and are recovering from you condition, you may decide not to take the risk of “saying” you feel better. Instead of taking the risk of being without income, you decide that you should try to convince DDS that you are still disabled. The trap begins in the thinking process where you convince or tell yourself that you are still very sick, and unable to work. As a result, your body may begin to manifest symptoms from before. When you revisit your doctor, you find that your symptoms and test show evidence of the diagnosis and no improvement.

Permanently disabled

You’ve just wiped away your actual progress psychologically. Even though you are actually doing better, you’ve just consciously or subconsciously convinced yourself and your body that you are not. And the cycle continues until you convince yourself and your body that you are permanently disabled and unable to work at all. The mind is powerful tool use it to your benefit not to your demise.
Use Opportunities

Social Security has realized that this is the case for many people who receive the benefits and have put incentives in place for people to return to work. For the most part, these systems do not have precedence and again are very difficult to navigate. As the current economic situation worsens and more people are without jobs these incentives seem bleak and at best. As bleak as they may appear they are still opportunities that can be taken advantage of and with the proper direction should be tested.

Be true to yourself
On the other hand, if you are truly severely disabled, beyond a shadow of a doubt, then make the claim. And prayerfully the doctors and evidence will validate the severity of your disability. If they don’t find you eligible there is an appeals process in place to help you make and present your case. I strongly suggest at this point getting a representative only after you have completed an honest self reflection and determined that you are in need of assistance.

Everyone has something to offer
It is my belief that every person no matter how disabled has something of value to contribute society. It is that participation that sometimes leads to employment, quality of life and economic independence. After all isn’t that why we work so that we can live.  Studies show that individuals who participate in purposeful and meaningful activities are healthier and lead more productive lives.

What is my purpose?
It is not the responsibility of the Social Security Administration or the government to provide funds for quality of life instead it is our society at large that should to reevaluate what is needful and necessary to live a life of quality and purpose.  We may find that it has nothing to do with money and everything to do with our how we spend our days and weather or not our greater purpose in life is being fulfilled.


  1. I know someone who is working and making mad money and collecting SSI and Socail Secuirty and not retired She is 37 I think that is unfair and makes it harder for those who are trying to reseve benefits that are actuallyy disabled

  2. Although a lot of the things that you are saying are true, it is easy for someone whom never had a disability to easily make comments such as yours. It is only when one experiences it that they can have a valid comment.

    • Thanks for dropping by Dominica. I agree, I am not disabled so obviously I could never have the same perspective but what I am trying to do is provide some useful well researched information for people so I believe the comments are definitely valid.

  3. My chiropractor told me I had arthritis in both hips and told me to stop working since I can not get up after sitting without great difficulty. He told me not to sit or stand for more than 15 minutes at a time. So after filing for SSD, I was told by SSD that they do not listen to anything a chiropractor says. I have no health insurance and pay out of pocket for doctors so SSD sent me to their doctor. What a mistake. Since SSD pays him he proceeded to lie about my condition to SSD. The SSD doctor even laughed at me for using a cane, although he did tell me I had arthritis in both hips. They had me get x-rays which showed them my condition although he never told SSD about the arthritis in both of my hips and evidently no one at SSD looked at the x-rays. They even hired spies to follow, and film me, and they proceeded to pile on their lies. Then they sent all of these reports to other SSD doctors for their opinions based on bogus information and lies from the first SSD doctor and SSD spies. They continued to pile on their lies about my condition, which they call their opinion. They even had a physiologist on the SSD payroll, who I never met, give their opinion about my condition. Only one out of all of these SSD doctors examined me, and all of a sudden they are saying I’m a psycho, I‘m depressed, it’s all in my head, and I’m lying to them about my condition. After my first denial I went to the best Orthopedic Specialists in town who look at the same x-rays SSD had and told me that I not only had arthritis in both hips but I also had bone spurs in both hips. He told me that it would be impossible for me to work and he put that in his report to SSD. I brought his report to SSD and they told me that I was already denied for the second time, two months earlier than they said they would make their second determination about me. I believe they denied me that very day since I had not received the second denial in the mail yet. I recently hired an attorney although I’m still suffering, can’t work, and now SSD tells me I have to wait another 18 months to go before a judge. There are times when my hip gets out of place and can not stand up with out the use of a walker. They do not want to help anyone who is disabled and they do not want to put anyone on SSD. They have always been rude to me when ever I‘ve gone to their office to discuss the wrong information which they put on their letters of denial. I guess they need our money for their payroll, conventions and parties. My opinion of SSD is that they are thoroughly corrupt and they are liars. God help anyone who has to deal with SSD because it‘s like trying to work with the devil.

  4. I am currently permantly disabled and my benefits put me in the lowest bracket of the income scale. The help I recieve is not even enough to live by. How can the goverment say that welfare disability people are getting half of the taxes america pays…it is not so. Government aid employees paychecks are far more than welfare recipients recieve. The more yo Should recieve….the less you get.

  5. If you happen to be on SSD, have minor children then die, there are no benefits for the minor children left behind. The SSD check does not go to the children. My daughters father had been disabled since 17 yrs old, was on SSD under parents work record. WHen he died and left behind a 13 yr old child who happens to be Learning disabled and I went to see about her getting his check I was told no. I sure dont understand it

  6. I am up for redetermination, so have been researching like mad. You’re certainly right about symptoms worsening due to the process of having to prove I am still disabled. Other than spiraling out-of-control pain (which I had dealt with enough that I could actually be present in my body without acute anxiety, fear and being triggered by PTSD constantly), I find myself terrified that I will find myself without benefits after going to the 2 independant medical evals in the next couple of weeks).

    My terror stems from my absolute inability to work and, without continuing benefits, I cannot envision any sort of future and am finding myself seriously planning suicide should I be denied. I cannot think of any way around this end: either I continue to eke out a meager existence, finding what pleasure and usefulness I can out of life, or I give up my life as I will not be able to provide shelter, food or anything for myself. All of my conditions are at red-alert status, every gain I have made is gone. I can see no alternative for myself right now.

    My quality of life is such that I have made all the concessions I can, all of the internal negotiating of which I am capable and, together with everything in my life going as wrong as it can within a couple of years, I was already fragile. I was already racheting up on symptoms when I learned I would have to prove, once again – and in this economy – that I was unable to work. I have few medical records for the last few years as I have grown increasingly frustrated with the inability of the medical community to help, have become paranoid of medications, so I feel really screwed about documenting my current situation.

    Any tips on increasing the odds that I can insure my being able to continue on disability? I tend to be so ashamed of being disabled or of being viewed as weak, am so good at disassociating, that I often appear to be fine by hiding my symptoms and condition for short periods of time, and isolate when I cannot. Anything? Thanks much.

  7. Sorry for submitting twice. After I posted, I called my redetermination case manager and found myself letting her know how I felt. She told me that 99% of redeterminations result in no changes to disability status, that when they are denied that there has been a substantial improvement in the person’s condition, that I wasn’t one of the 1% people and that I had no reason to worry. I am very glad that I decided to call and face my worst fears, am certain that I am not alone in my reaction (given that people in pain do commit suicide at alarmingly higher rates than is normal), and simply wanted to say that I am going to take her advice not to torment myself and to let others know what I found out from my case worker.

  8. I think there is some useful information on this site, but some of it simply isn’t true. I don’t think it is on purpose, necessarily. Nonetheless, misinformation at times only serves to further scare people of the process.

    SSI is actually Supplemental Security Income. The two descriptions of SSDI are incorrect. One of them you do have to be found disabled before age 22 so you can qualify for benefits under another wage earners benefits if you were/are dependent on them and they become disabled themselves, retire, or die. The other SSDI is simply what you pay into as a worker and you are eligible to collect on it as early as age 18…you don’t have to be over 22 or found disabled after age 22.

    The author notes redeterminations occur every 1-2 years. They generally occur every 3 years (normal) or 7 years for more permanent conditions (e.g. severe mental retardation). A review at the 1 or 2 year mark would be in the case of a bone marrow transplant or another recent treatment. Another example would be if the claimant was improving but evidence showed he/she was already disabled for 12 months or more or was expected to be disabled for 12 months or more.

    I can appreciate the poster’s frustration over the limited acceptance of chiropractor notes. However, they are not trained medical doctors and do not have the same expertise to treat, diagnose, and state functional impairments. It is not a slam on them, but it is just what it is. I like chiropractors myself and have used them several times, but this is why they aren’t used by themselves in the evaluation of your impairment(s). Also, sometimes the consultative exam doctors aren’t the best, but they don’t make the determination as to whether or not you are disabled. The adjudicator receives a copy of the x-ray report and a copy of objective findings from the consultative exam doctor…as well as your own reports on symptoms.

    Many cases aren’t clear, cut, and dry. Adjudicators don’t get bonuses or otherwise receive some kind of credit for denying more claimants. The burden of proof for allowing claimants is indeed tough, especially for those under 50. Nonetheless, adjudicatos face high case loads and most do the best they can.

    My suggestion is to be as prepared as possible. Work with your doctors to prepare strong medical source statements indicating what you are still capable of doing and what you can’t do any longer. A doctor letter saying “Mr. Smith is permanently disabled and can’t perform any work activities” is 100% meaningless. Please, reread that. Your doctor is trying to help you, but a letter with just that does nothing to help your case. The letters need to be specific and state objective findings, what you can and cannot do, why, effects of treatment, what has and hasn’t worked, prognosis, etc. It should be stated in the terms of what is the most you can reasonably be expected to do in an 8-hour workday through a normal 40-hour workweek. Pain, fatigue, and sustainability should be taken into account and addressed. It would also be good to have multiple letters from more than one doctor…if you have more than one doctor. You will want to educate yourself on what type of letter will help you here and what won’t. If they say you can lift and carry 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally, as well as stand/walk 6 hours out of an 8-hour workday…then for most everyone under 55 that will result in a denial. Medical source statement letters for psych impairments are also very valuable…if not more so.

  9. Hi, I had a cerebral aneurysm in Nov. 2005. After climbing through the SSA hoops (appeals etc.) I was deemed disabled and was granted SS benefits in Dec.2007. They told me I have to be redetermined in 3 years. Since the aneurysm, I developed Major Depressive Disorder and Acute Anxiety, for which I’m being treated for but the results haven’t made me any better. I am not half the person I once was. I also still get pains where the operation was performed (the famous dented temple!) Had cat scans and all that and was seeing a neurologist because I suffer small seizures from time to time. What I really want to know is what the redetermining process is by the SSA and how it works, and what might chances are to have it go in my favor. The mental health clinic I go to said not to worry, since they are the only doctors and clinicians I see, as my state benefits stopped and I don’t have Medicare Pt. B. Has anyone gone through this re-determination process? It would ease my worried mind. Thank you

  10. I was born with a heart condition. My medicals bills have amounted to past 1 mill. But I’m denied SSI. Im currently graduating with my AAOT degree and continuing on to my bachelors. It is so hard to pay for medical condition, college, and try and work all at the same time. Frankly the stress is over whelming. To top it off I found out I can’t even get life insurance because of my heart condition. Not to mention in a couple years I will be kicked of my parents health insurance and I will have NO OPTIONS! No insurance company will take me. I hope Obama works some magic! Our health care is messed up! I didn’t get to choose wether or not I wanted to be born with this condition or not. The government looks at me and says sucks for you! Your to expensive and we don’t want to pay for you! Our health care system is so supportive! NOT! Anyways thats my rant.

  11. Charley,the redetermination process,leaves SSD with the burden of proof,as opposed to your original determination,where a judge and work advocate ruled you were medically unable to work.I have gone through this process more than once,and most doctors will report your condition and SSD will do nothing,provided your physician is honest and tells them you have lingering problems,and additional mental issues.You should have no problem,and be recertified.I myself have improved in some areas,while regressing majorly in others.If you are sick,don’t sweat it.

  12. I have actually multiple diagnosis of several of the so called list of disabilities that are supposed to qualify you for Soc Sec Benefits. I was sent to one of their Doctors also. I agree what a joke. Very quick and evasive half assed examination. Their doctor would not even look at the MRI’s and X-Rays I brought. I could not believe it. Basically if you can click pens you are ok to work. That’s one of the tests by the way. I have been told by a Pain Management Doctor and a Chiropractor that my symptoms more than qualify and should file for Soc Sec disability. Without multiple medications daily I cannot function as normal.I have been advised that my conditions will eventually slowly get worse over time. The Soc Sec Administration has denied me twice now.I spoke with people that are on Soc Sec Disability just because they have daily headaches? Go Figure …that’s only one of my problems with herniated degenerated disks in the neck. Currently at wits end. They make seem as if you have to be in a wheelchair drooling all over yourself to qualify. No disrespect. There are many out there that qualify and can’t get it. The Government is so screwed up. I recently attempted to try to get a sales job. But was turned down because I take Zoloft and Pain Medication.
    Nice…just one of the problems with discrimination against disabled persons.

  13. I am 41 years old and have been a diabetic since 1995 i have severe neurophathy in my hands legs and feet and are on many different medications that the side effects have even more debilitating problems. I applied for disability and was just wondering what anyone thinks of my chances i cant stand for long i cant sit the ability to use my hands is limited and i am in pain most of the time. cant sleep and am on insulin. I have a stenosis in my back pushing on nerves and the rest of my nerves are damaged due to the diabetes. My doctor agrees that i should apply for disability and also gave me a disabled parking placard which says i have a long term neurological problem. i just cant function any more . What do you think my chances are.

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