What Are the Three Types of Social Security Disability Benefits?

Social Security was created in 1935 to help promote economic security for Americans. Most people associate it with the benefits retired people receive, but that’s not the only type of social security benefits out there.

In fact, there are three major types of Social Security that can help assist those who may be going through financial difficulties due to disability or death. Here’s what you need to know and how you can apply for benefits you may be entitled to.

Retirement Benefits

If you’ve spent a sufficient number of years working in “covered employment” (meaning you paid into Social Security), then you can file for Social Security retirement benefits at the age of 62. In general, those who have worked at least 10 years in a nongovernmental job can apply.

Retirement benefits can be applied for at the age of 62 or you can wait until the “full retirement age” of between 65 and 67, depending the year you were born. Waiting to apply offers certain incentives such as a slightly higher benefit when you do become of full retirement age.

However, the age at which you apply for benefits can depend on many factors, so you may want to consult with an attorney to understand what benefits can mean for you at different ages and if waiting is worth it. No matter how long you wait to collect your Social Security benefits, the amount you receive is normally only a small percentage of what you earned when working.

Survivor Benefits

If you are married and your spouse dies, then you may be entitled to payments through the Social Security Administration called “survivor benefits.” If your spouse passed away but would have qualified for either disability benefits or retirement benefits, then you and any minor children you have with the deceased may be eligible for benefits based on their earnings record.

Disability Benefits

For those that have not yet reached full retirement age under Social Security but have met the work requirements and are considered disabled under the program’s medical guidelines, benefits can be received roughly equivalent to the full retirement benefits one can receive.

To qualify as disabled under Social Security, you must meet the definition of being disabled, which includes:

  • The inability to work as you did before
  • The ability to adjust your work due to a medical condition
  • A disability that is expected to last or has lasted or at least one year or will result in death

You cannot currently be working to qualify for benefits, your condition must be considered severe and limit your ability to do basic work, your condition or injury is listed as a disabling condition under the Social Security Administration’s parameters, and you cannot do the work you did before or any other type of work to qualify.

Duluth SSDI Attorney

Social Security disability benefits are not payable for short-term disabilities or partial disabilities. Only total disability is covered and the rules defining total disability are strict. If a person has worked enough to qualify for disability benefits and they meet the requirements, then it’s possible to be granted Social Security disability.

Applying for Your Benefits

For some people, the process of applying for one of these types of Social Security benefits can be difficult, so you may need guidance to help see you through. An experienced attorney can help you to navigate this sometimes complicated system and get the money you’ve worked hard to earn.


About the Author:

A lifelong Minnesotan, founding partner Ronald R. Envall has spent his entire legal career fighting for the little guy, focusing on workers’ compensation, Social Security, and personal injury cases. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers as a Top Rated Attorney in Duluth, placing him in the top 5 percent of all workers comp lawyers across the state. In his free time, Mr. Envall serves on the boards of several area government and nonprofit organizations and is a member of the Minnesota Association for Justice, which supports consumer rights.