Does Social Security Cover Short-term Disability?

Medicare Benefits Solutions
Nov 27, 2020

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), “a 20-year-old worker has a one-in-four chance of becoming disabled before reaching full retirement age.” Though this may sound like a daunting statistic, there are two programs that fall under the SSA in which you may be eligible for disability benefits. One is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and the other is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 

Difference between SSDI and SSI

Both programs impose the same eligibility requirements in terms of medical criteria and how disability is defined. Under federal law, disability is defined as “a medical condition that’s expected to last at least one year or result in death.” In alignment with this law, the SSA does not issue payments for partial or short-term disability. 

SSDI requires that you have worked and paid Social Security taxes long enough to earn credits. An easy way to check this is to look at your Social Security statement under “Your Estimated Benefits.” If you have earned enough credits to qualify for disability benefits, it will be stated in this section with an estimated amount. SSI benefits are based on financial need, intended for people who fall under a certain threshold for income and resources.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

There are two earnings tests used to determine eligibility for SSDI, and applicants are required to pass both. One test considers your age when you became disabled and the other factors in your duration in the workforce. For workers who are blind, meeting the test for work duration may suffice.

In some cases, the Disability Determination Services office will require a physical exam by a medical practitioner other than your own doctor. The agency takes into account whether you are working, the severity of the medical condition, how your disability measures up against a preset list of prohibitive impairments if you have the capacity to perform the work you had in the past, and your ability to do another type of work.

Do not delay submitting the application as the protracted approval process can take several months. Once your application is approved, expect a letter that includes your monthly benefit amount and effective date. The amount is based on average earnings over your lifetime. The effective date will be six months after you became disabled as determined by the state agency. Based on your work, some of your family members may also qualify for benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

The SSI program issues payments for qualified individuals with a low income and limited resources. The claimant must be either age 65 years or older, blind or disabled. Disabled or blind children of people with low income and resources may qualify for SSI as well. The income that the SSA counts in its determination of eligibility excludes wages used for apparatus or services you need to perform your job, such as a wheelchair. In the case of blindness, an example would be transportation necessary for travel to and from the job, and possibly training.


On the disability page of the SSA website at, you can find links to resources on a variety of disability-related subjects. The site offers audio recordings and publications available for download across a wide range of topics, some in multiple languages. 

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