How Does Disability Enrollment Work?

October 30, 2018

disability enrollment

In the U.S. we have two federal programs—Social Security and Supplemental Security Income programs—designed to provide assistance for those with disabilities. “While these two programs are different in many ways, both are administered by the Social Security Administration and only individuals who have a disability and meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under either program,” explains the Social Security Administration’s website.

Before getting into the specifics of disability enrollment and how it works, there is an important distinction to make: Social Security Disability Insurance (the kind that’s often just referred to as ‘disability insurance’) pays benefits to disabled people and sometimes certain members of their families as well. This happens if they are insured, which which requires that the employee receiving benefits has worked long enough and have paid enough Social Security taxes. Supplemental Security Income is different in that it pays out benefits depending on financial need.

What qualifies me for disability enrollment?

The factor you’ll want to consider when deciding if you qualify for disability enrollment is whether or not you meet the definition of “disabled” that the Social Security Administration uses. Under the administration, whether or not you’re disabled depends on things like whether or not you’re working, if your condition is severe, if it’s found on the list of disabling conditions, and whether or not you can continue to do the same work you did before you experienced injury. You can have a deeper look at the questions that are used to determine eligibility for disability enrollment here.

Can I enroll in disability even if I don’t have health insurance?

Yes– think about it along the lines of Social Security payouts; you earn these benefits as you work and pay taxes throughout your life. One important thing to note is that you can receive both disability benefits and Medicare benefits if you qualify for both.

You don’t need health insurance to qualify for disability. You earn these benefits as you work and pay taxes throughout your life. 

Does disability enrollment depend on age?

Not directly. While there’s no set age associated with qualifying for disability enrollment, qualifying is a function of how long you’ve worked and how many work credits you have, or the units by which the government measures your ability to qualify. While the exact amount needed for one work credit changes often, in 2018 one credit is earned every time you in $1,320 in wages or self-employment income.

However, younger workers can sometimes qualify even if they have fewer credits. The usual minimum number of credits to qualify is 40, but there are options for earning credits and self-employment earnings count.

How do I enroll in disability?

There are several ways that you can go about filing for disability enrollment. You can fill out an online application, call a toll-free phone number at 1-800-772-1213 (or TTY 1-800-325-0778 if you’re hard of hearing), or visit your local social security office.

An important element to note is that if your application is denied, you have the right to appeal it and ask the Social Security Administration to take another look. If you get a letter saying that you don’t qualify, that letter will contain instructions on how to appeal the decision and the amount of time you have to initiate an appeal.


Cinnamon Janzer is a journalist and content writer based in Minneapolis. Her first job was at a buffet in Mandan, North Dakota which was just as lowbrow as it sounds. Read more about her at

Category: HR Tips & Trends, Compliance

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