For people who can’t work because of a medical condition, there are a few types of disability benefits to consider. SSDI and long-term disability (LTD) insurance are two options, and you can collect both at the same time. In fact, you should. Many LTD insurers require you to apply for SSDI — and dock your LTD payments if you don't.
Here’s what you need to know about these two programs and how they work together.
Can I get SSDI and long-term disability insurance?
You can apply for and receive SSDI and long-term disability insurance at the same time. Some benefit programs conflict with each other (like unemployment and disability benefits) but receiving long-term disability doesn’t impact your odds of receiving SSDI.
Should I apply for both SSDI and long-term disability?
Yes. It’s a smart idea to pursue long-term disability insurance and SSDI at the same time. First of all, you’ll get more money each month if you receive both benefits simultaneously. The other big reason to get both is that many LTD insurers require you to apply for SSDI. If you don’t apply within a certain period of time, your LTD benefits may take a hit.
Your insurance company will often provide a lawyer for you, but they might not be your best option for getting SSDI benefits. And since the company may penalize you for not receiving SSDI benefits, you’ll want to get the best lawyer you can.
Atticus can advise you (for free) on how to apply for SSDI and we can connect you with an experienced disability lawyer from our network. To get started, fill out our 3-minute quiz.
How will SSDI affect my long-term disability check?
Getting SSDI in addition to LTD benefits will likely reduce the size of your long-term disability check. But even if you don’t apply for SSDI, most LTD carriers will reduce your benefits by the amount of the SSDI benefits they believe you would have received if you had gotten SSDI.
For example, if you’re making $1,500 per month from long-term disability insurance and you start getting $1,000 checks for SSDI, your LTD payment will decrease to $500. If you don’t apply for SSDI but your insurance company still believes you could qualify for a $1,000 check from SSDI, the company may decrease your payments to $500 anyway. Your policy agreement should detail these terms.
Even if applying for SSDI is not required by your insurer, you should start the application anyway, especially if your disability will prevent you from working for a long time. It can take years to start receiving SSDI benefits, and you’ll want a source of income once your LTD plan runs out.
Who qualifies for SSDI?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that provides monthly benefits — payments and health insurance — to people who are unable to work because of a serious medical condition. To qualify, you must have also worked and paid Social Security taxes for years (at least five of the last 10 years is a good rule of thumb for most people).
If you’ve worked in any of the following types of jobs, create an account at SSA.gov to double-check if you’ve paid enough Social Security taxes:
Self-employment, especially if you own a business and don’t pay yourself a salary
State employment, including as a teacher, police officer, or firefighter (in some states, you need to opt in to Social Security taxes)
Nonprofit work (some nonprofits don’t pay into Social Security)
How to apply for SSDI
You can apply for SSDI by filling out an application with the Social Security administration (SSA). The SSDI process is long — longer than for LTD — and you’ll need to submit medical records to prove your disability.
The SSA denies most people’s initial applications, which means you’ll also need to appeal. (Working with a disability lawyer greatly increases your chances of winning your case.)
After applying and being approved for the program, you will receive a check each month. While the average SSDI check size is between $800 and $1,800 per month, this varies depending on your work history. There are also waiting periods before you can receive your payments or your free health insurance through Medicare.
Long-term disability (LTD) insurance is usually available through private insurance companies or employer-based insurance plans. You’ll apply for LTD through these channels — not via the SSA.
Long-term disability policies typically pay between 50% and 60% of your past earnings. Payments may last several years or until you retire. The exact terms will depend on which policy you bought. You can apply for LTD by filing a claim with your insurance provider, but the application process and qualification requirements depend on your plan, too.
Importantly, you can only qualify for long-term disability insurance if you bought the plan before you became disabled.
What about SSI and long-term disability insurance?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is another option for disability benefits, but it has very low income requirements. You can only qualify for SSI if you have $2,000 or less in savings and other assets. While it is possible to qualify for both SSI and LTD, it’s unlikely since your LTD payments are probably high enough to disqualify you from receiving SSI. However, SSI uses the same application as SSDI, so you can certainly apply for both just in case.
How Atticus can help you get disability benefits
Atticus is a law firm built to simplify the process of getting you disability benefits. We can offer advice on how to proceed with your application — whether you haven’t applied yet or need to appeal a denial — and we can refer you to a lawyer who we’ve vetted and trust.
Our services are always free and if we refer you to a lawyer, you don’t need to pay anything unless they win your case.
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