More than 155 million U.S. workers are insured for a disability through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. They receive this insurance coverage through their payroll taxes, or FICA taxes, as a part of the Social Security program.
When those who experience a chronic health condition, injury or sudden medical crisis need support – SSDI is there to help. It’s estimated that fewer than one in three U.S. workers have private disability insurance, which means their primary means of assistance, if they experience a work-disrupting disability, is SSDI.
Health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, stroke and Type 2 diabetes are among the chronic illnesses that can interrupt someone’s time on the job. Sudden severe health issues include heart attack, aneurysm, traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury.
These dire circumstances are when the SSDI program is most vital for former workers. The average SSDI recipient is 54 years old and has worked 22 years before a disability occurs and they apply.
The following are the top reasons men and women apply for disability insurance benefits:
1. Income to support yourself and your family. Men and women apply for disability benefits because if they’re approved, they’ll receive important income to sustain their households while they deal with stabilization of, and possible recovery from, their health issue. For some individuals, a health crisis may require 2, 3 or 4 years of treatment and rehabilitation to reach stability before returning to work. Without the ability to earn income, the SSDI program becomes a vital financial support. In 2019, the average monthly benefit for a disabled worker is $1,234, which is about $14,800 annually. For a disabled worker with a family, it increases to $2,130 per month, or $25,560 per year.
2. Health insurance for your medical needs. Another crucial benefit for people who apply for Social Security disability benefits is healthcare coverage through Medicare. Individuals approved for benefits will become eligible for Medicare 24 months after their cash SSDI benefits begin. For some, the wait to receive approval may last 24 months or longer, as they wait for the Social Security Administration to review their claim through appeals. This means many people are immediately able to access Medicare once the SSA approves benefits. Access to healthcare is especially vital for individuals with disabilities dealing with chronic health conditions and degenerative diseases, since ongoing, expensive treatment often can be required.
3. Protect your retirement benefits. Many individuals can discover an important protection by applying for disability benefits, called the “retirement freeze.” You may be aware that the SSA tracks your reported earning over the course of your working career to calculate your Social Security retirement benefits. This includes the years that you don’t work because of a disability: Those years are counted as $0 in earnings. However, if you apply for SSDI and are approved, this means those years with $0 earnings are not factored into your retirement benefit, with the potential to receive more in retirement as a result.
4. Protect your long-term disability income. For workers who have purchased long-term disability insurance benefits, they also receive an important protection. Most LTD insurance plans are designed to integrate with SSDI, so participating workers benefit from lower LTD premiums. Individuals can also benefit from immediate access to income following a disability with their LTD coverage, and then turn to SSDI as another source of support, including income, Medicare and other program benefits. Applying for SSDI provides a protection that can help ensure LTD benefits also continue for former workers.
5. Support for going back to work again. Another advantage when applying for disability benefits is the ability to receive return-to-work protections. Individuals can access important incentives when approved for SSDI benefits. These protections include a trial work period, 9 months over the course of 60 months (5 years), to try working and earning as much as you can and still receive SSDI benefits. Following this period, you have an extended period of eligibility of 36 months to be able to work, earn money and receive SSDI benefits whenever your earnings fall below a certain level. Many other incentives are available to help those who don’t want to give up on returning to work.