Social Security benefits are available to some individuals who cannot work because of a medical condition. The SSA offers two types of benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Individuals who have worked long enough and earned enough to meet the SSA’s earning requirements may be eligible for SSDI when they become disabled. If you are eligible for SSDI, your spouse and children may also receive SSDI benefits. In order to be eligible for SSDI, your medical condition must be expected to last at least one year or result in death. Furthermore, you must be able to demonstrate that you are not only unable to perform your previous work but are unable to perform any other type of substantial gainful employment.

If you are eligible for SSDI, the SSA does not issue your first monthly SSDI payment until the sixth full month after you become disabled. In other words, you do not receive SSDI benefits during the first five months of disability. Your monthly SSDI payment amount depends on how long you worked and how much you earned before becoming disabled. Individuals who receive two years of SSDI payments are also eligible for Medicare.

In contrast to SSDI, eligibility for SSI is needs-based, meaning that you must have a low income and few resources in order to be eligible for SSI. You must be disabled, blind, or 65 years of age or older in order to be eligible for SSI. Individuals who are eligible for SSI may also be eligible for Medicaid.

For more information on SSDI and how to apply for SSDI, visit http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10029.html.

For more information on SSI and how to apply for SSI, visit http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/11000.html.

In addition to applying for Social Security benefits, an individual who cannot work because of a medical condition should always find out if his/her employer provides short-term or long-term disability benefits. Short-term and long-term disability plans differ with regard to eligibility requirements and the amount of benefits available. For instance, some plans may require an individual to apply for SSDI, and plans will differ as to the duration of benefits.

Employers and plans are required to provide you with a written summary of the disability benefits they provide. Therefore, an individual should consult the particular plan's summary and contact the employer’s human resources representatives in order to find out how to apply for benefits and the amount of benefits to which he/she is entitled.