When an individual or company is referencing “Social Security disability benefits”, he/she or they are referring to one of two programs overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA): 1) is the Social Security Disability Insurance Program (SSDI), and the other is 2) the Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI). (The law defines disability as the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity SGA by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) that can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.1 )
Both programs (SSDI and SSI) require similar standards for establishing “disability”, but each program serves a different function. One major requirement difference is that for SSDI an individual must prove that he or she contributed to the program for a certain period of time before becoming disabled. SSI does not require that a person contributed, only that they are significantly disabled or 65 years of age or older.
The two also differ in determination as to how much benefit is issued. SSDI is based on how much the person earned and contributed to the program and SSI is based on need only.
You can find most disability laws online. The government has posted the laws and you can even find many of the cases that were brought before the court. They are listed under federal statutes. You can learn more about federal statutes with this Beginner’s Guide to Federal Statutes.
There is a primer for the Social Security Act to Help the Disabled. It is important to note that this information may be helpful to gain some insight about the topic but the process of proving and securing disability can be best handled by a legal professional.