500.What are the types of disability protection under Social Security?

There are eight types of disability protection included under Social Security:

  1. Monthly cash benefits for a disabled worker (see §§501-506) and family. Benefits for the disabled worker are often referred to as “disability insurance benefits.” However, in this Chapter they are called “disabled worker's benefits.” This is to distinguish them from other benefits for disabled persons.

  2. Monthly cash benefits for the needy, blind, or disabled individuals. This also includes blind or disabled children (see §2110 for the definition of a child) under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The evaluation of disability is discussed in Chapter 6. Other conditions for eligibility are discussed in Chapter 21.

  3. The establishment of a period of disability for a disabled worker. This protects against the loss of, or the reduction in, the disability amount or retirement insurance benefits for the worker or the worker's survivors. The establishment of a period of disability excludes the time that the worker is disabled when determining either insured status or the amount of benefits. This protects the worker since it is likely that the worker does not have substantial earnings when disabled. (See §§508-512.)

    The requirements for disabled worker's benefits and for establishing a period of disability are nearly the same. A worker entitled to either one is usually entitled to both.

  4. Monthly cash benefits for a disabled widow(er) or disabled surviving divorced spouse. These benefits apply to disabled widow(er)'s (or disabled surviving divorced spouses) age 50-59 who meet the other requirements for entitlement to widow(er)'s insurance benefits. (See §§401-403: the disability-related requirements are explained in §§513-515.) Statements in this Chapter that apply equally to disabled widow(er)'s and disabled surviving divorced spouses refer to them simply as “disabled widow(er)'s.”

  5. Monthly cash benefits for a disabled child of a worker entitled to disabled worker's or retirement benefits or of an insured worker who died. These benefits are payable as early as age 18 and there is no upper age limit. They are referred to as childhood disability benefits (see §517) because the child must have become disabled before reaching age 22. (See Chapter 3 for an explanation of other requirements for entitlement to child's insurance benefits that must be met by a worker's child.)

  6. Vocational rehabilitation services, employment services, or other support services for a Social Security disability beneficiary or a SSI disabled or blind recipient. These services help beneficiaries obtain the services and assistance they need to go to work. A State vocational rehabilitation agency or an employment network provides these services. (See §518.)

  7. Hospital and supplementary medical insurance protection for:

    1. A person under age 65 who has been entitled to disability benefits as a disabled worker, widow(er), or adult child for at least 24 months.

      Note: The person must be entitled to benefits on the basis of insured status established under the Social Security Act. This does not include credits earned under the program of any other country.

    2. A person who:

      1. Has chronic kidney failure requiring a regular course of dialysis or a kidney transplant; or

      2. Is disabled due to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and is entitled to disabled worker benefits; and

      3. Is fully insured, currently insured, or entitled to monthly insurance payments because of work covered by the Social Security Act or the Railroad Retirement Act. This includes the spouse or dependent child of a person who is insured or entitled to monthly benefits payable under these Acts; or

      4. Is disabled due to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and is entitled to disabled widow(er)'s or disabled adult child benefits.

    3. A person whose disability did not end prior to December 1, 1980. The beneficiary may have his or her medical coverage continued for a maximum of 24 months after entitlement ends based on disability, provided medical recovery has not occurred.

      Note: After this period, a person may elect to purchase premium Medicare coverage. This is provided if he or she continues to have a disabling impairment, files during an enrollment period, and his or her premium-free Medicare coverage ended because of substantial gainful activity (see §603).

  8. Prescription drug benefit to a person entitled to hospital insurance or enrolled in supplementary medical insurance.

Last Revised: Sep. 3, 2009