When you work, you pay taxes. Some of these taxes go into the federal government’s Social Security trust fund.

If you or a qualifying family member have paid Social Security taxes for a long enough time and you have to stop working because of a disability, the federal government will pay you monthly cash benefits called Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

There are more than 8 million people under age 65 who get SSDI benefits because their disabilities or health conditions prevent them from working.

Don't get SSDI mixed up with other programs!

Three disability benefits have very similar names: SSDI, SDI, and SSI.

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that gives a cash benefit to people with long-term disabilities who qualify because they used to work or have family members who worked. SSDI is explained in this article.
  • State Disability Insurance (SDI) is a state program that gives a cash benefit for one year or less to Californians with disabilities who worked before becoming disabled.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program that gives a cash benefit to people who have disabilities and have low income and resources. You do not need to have worked in the past to get SSI.

You may be able to qualify for more than one of these programs at the same time. For example, if you become disabled, you might get SDI at first and later start getting SSDI. If you get SSDI and also have low resources, you may quailfy for SSI as well. Make sure you know which benefits you get and which you might qualify for if you applied.