There are several kinds of Social Security disability benefits for which a person can be eligible.
Depending on the facts, you may be entitled to one of these benefits, or you may be entitled to more than one. The medical rules are the same for all categories, you must be just as disabled to qualify for one as for another. The non-medical requirements are different for each category.
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)
You are only eligible for these benefits if you have paid a certain amount of Social Security tax over a period of time, enough to have disability insurance coverage in force. In general, you must have paid at least a certain amount of Social Security tax (the FICA deduction on your paycheck, or your Social Security tax if you’re self-employed) in at least twenty calendar quarters during the forty calendar quarters before your total disability began. In other words, you must have worked and paid Social Security tax for about five out of the last ten years before you became totally disabled.
There is a different, easier rule for people whose disability began before age 30. Everyone must prove the disability began while disability insurance coverage was in force or they are not entitled to benefits, no matter how serious the medical condition is now. If your DIB claim is approved, the monthly payment you will receive is set by your earnings (and Social Security tax payments) during your working career. There is no minimum rate, and the rate a person can receive at this time can be calculated here: https://ssa.gov/planners/calculators.htm There is a cost-of-living raise in the monthly payment at the start of most years. In many cases, your spouse and dependent children will also get benefits in addition to your own.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSI is an entitlement program and can be paid whether or not a person has paid in enough Social Security tax to get disability insurance benefits. You must be disabled under the same rules as for disability insurance, or be blind, or be over 65. You must also have very little income or property, assets under $2000, because this benefit is based on financial need. Social Security looks at all other income and property in the household you live in, not just your own, and also the value of any support (like free room and board) you may get from others, to determine whether you are financially eligible for SSI. Social Security does this in addition to deciding if you are disabled. Also, some children 18 or younger with a severe disability can get a monthly benefit if their family income is low enough.
Disability Widow/Widower Benefits (DWB)
This is a special disability benefit for certain widows and widowers, based on the Social Security tax paid by his or her deceased spouse. In order to qualify, you must be between the ages of 50 and 60 and have been married for at least 10 years to the person who was covered under Social Security at the time of his or her death. Also, you must have proof that your disability was severe enough to meet these rules within seven years of your spouse’s death, with some exceptions for those already receiving other kinds of Social Security benefits. If you are awarded DWB benefits, your monthly rate is determined by your spouse’s income and Social Security tax payments. However, a surviving spouse’s pension can usually be paid at the age of 60, regardless of any disability.
Disabled Adult Child Benefits (DAC)
In order to be eligible, you must be a child of a person already receiving Disability Insurance Benefits or Retirement Benefits or a worker who died while covered for Social Security. You must be at least 18 years old, and you must prove your total disability began before the month you turned age 22, and is continuing. The monthly benefit rate is based on a percentage of your parent’s rate. Therefore, it is different in each particular case.