By Hillary Hatch, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist
How do I apply for disability benefits? How long does it take to get a decision after I apply for disability benefits?
You can apply for disability benefits online at www.ssa.gov/benefits. To get a decision on your disability application usually takes three-to-five months. The timeframe can vary depending on:
- The nature of your disability.
- How quickly we can get your medical evidence from your doctor or other medical source.
- Whether it’s necessary to send you for a medical examination.
- Whether we review your application for quality purposes.
Create or sign in to your personal my Social Security account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount to check your claim status.
I am expecting a child and will be out of work for six months. Can I qualify for short-term disability?
No. Social Security pays only for total disability — conditions that render you unable to work and are expected to last for at least a year or end in death. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability, including benefits while on maternity leave.
I have been getting Social Security disability benefits for many years. I’m about to hit my full retirement age. What will happen to my disability benefits?
When you reach “full retirement age,” we will switch you from disability to retirement benefits. But you won’t even notice the change because your benefit amount will stay the same. It’s just that when you reach retirement age, we consider you to be a “retiree” and not a disability beneficiary. To learn more, visit www.ssa.gov.
I need to apply for disability benefits. Where do I start?
Begin by looking at our Disability Starter Kit. You can find it online at www.ssa.gov/disability/disability_starter_kits.htm or you can request a copy by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). The Disability Starter Kit will help you prepare for your application and interview. When you are ready, you can apply online at www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability or make an appointment to apply in person at a local Social Security office. Remember, our online disability application is convenient and secure. Don’t stand in line, go online at www.ssa.gov.
What is substantial gainful activity (SGA)?
We use the term “substantial gainful activity,” or “SGA,” to describe a level of work activity and earnings. Work is “substantial” if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both.
If you earn more than a certain amount and are doing productive work, we generally consider that you are engaging in SGA. For example, the monthly SGA amount for 2023 is $1,470. For a statutorily blind person, that amount is $2,460. In these cases, you would not be eligible for disability benefits if you made more than those amounts. You can read more about substantial gainful activity and if your earnings qualify as SGA at www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/sga.html.
Hillary Hatch is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org