56 million Americans, one in five, live with disabilities. Thirty-eight million disabled Americans, one in ten, live with severe disabilities. Disability is something many Americans, especially younger people, think can only affect the lives of other people. Tragically, thousands of young people are seriously injured or killed, often as the result of traumatic events. Many serious medical conditions, such as cancer or mental illness, can affect the young as well as the elderly. The sobering fact for 20-year-olds, insured for disability benefits, is that more than 1-in-4 of them becomes disabled before reaching retirement age. As a result, they may need to rely on the Social Security disability benefits for income support. The disability benefits provide a critical source of financial support to people when they need it most.
Social Security disability is a social insurance program under which workers earn coverage for benefits, by working and paying Social Security taxes on their earnings. The program provides benefits to disabled workers and to their dependents. For those who can no longer work due to a disability, the disability program is there to replace some of their lost income.
To receive disability benefits, a person must meet the definition of disability under the Social Security Act (Act). A person is disabled under the Act if he or she can’t work due to a severe medical condition that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least one year or result in death. The person’s medical condition must prevent him or her from doing work that he or she did in the past, and it must prevent the person from adjusting to other work.