Social Security and Disability Insurance 

Post-stroke disability may leave you unable to work, which can lead to serious financial issues. If you’re unable to work because of a physical or mental impairment, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. SSDI eligibility is based on your age, disability, how long you worked and citizenship status. You can check your eligibility with this Benefits Eligibility Screening Tool.

What is SSDI?

SSDI is a federal insurance program, funded by payroll taxes. It provides income if you’re unable to work because of a disability. SSDI guarantees income if your condition doesn’t improve. Once you reach retirement age, you move from SSDI to Social Security retirement income.

You’re defined as disabled if a physical or mental impairment prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful work and the condition is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death. Medical proof is required. You must have been disabled before reaching full retirement age (65 to 67). In addition, you must have worked and paid into the program (payroll taxes) for five of the past 10 years.

SSDI benefits include:

  • Regular monthly income
  • Regular monthly payment with annual cost-of-living increases
  • A portion may be tax-free
  • Medicare benefits

Regardless of age, you’re eligible for Medicare benefits 24 months after becoming eligible for SSDI.

  • COBRA extension: If you receive SSDI, you may be able to extend cobra benefits by an additional 11 months.
  • Long-term disability (LTD) benefits: Private LTD insurance providers often require people to apply for SSDI, which can help protect the ability to receive LTD income.
  • Protected retirement benefits: SSDI recipients’ Social Security earnings records are frozen during the period of disability, potentially increasing future Social Security retirement benefits.
  • Dependent benefits: Dependents younger than age 18 may be eligible for benefits.
  • Return-to-work incentives: Receive return-to-work opportunities while still receiving disability benefits.

You may apply for SSDI in several ways:

  • Complete your application online.
  • Call the toll-free telephone number 1-800-772-1213.
  • If you’re deaf or hard of hearing, you can call TTY 1-800-325-0778.
  • Call or visit your local Social Security office.

The SSDI application process can be challenging. It can take from two to four years to receive benefits once you apply for them.

Myths About SSDI

Myth: SSDI is available only to poor or low-income people.
Reality: Income is not a factor. Applicants must have worked and paid taxes. Typically, if you worked five of the past 10 years, you’ll have enough credits to apply.

Myth: There’s a 12-month waiting period after disability onset or leaving a job to apply for SSDI.
Reality: You can and should apply as soon as possible to receive and protect all benefits for which you’re eligible.

Myth: You need an attorney to file for SSDI.
Reality: You don’t need an attorney to file for SSDI or to appeal SSDI denials at the initial, reconsideration or hearing levels. There are many advantages to using a non-attorney representative.