Social Security Disability Programs

The Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income Disability programs are the largest of several federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities (such as cancer). 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.

Social Security Disability Insurance pays benefits to you and certain members of your family (children, spouses) if you are insured, meaning that you worked long enough and paid enough taxes into Social Security to qualify.

Supplemental Security Income pays benefits based on financial need. It is designed to help aged, blind and disabled (such as cancer) people who have little or no income. It provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing and shelter.

When you apply for either program, medical and other information will be gathered about you to help decide whether or not you meet Social Security’s definition of “disabled.”

Adults must have a physical and/or mental problem that keeps them from working for at least 12 months, or that is expected to result in death.

If you think that you may be eligible for payments, you can file a claim online at, in person at your local office, or by calling (800) 772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. A toll-free “TTY” number for the deaf and hard of hearing is available at (800) 325-0778.

Please be aware that the Social Security Disability process takes six months or more, so don’t wait to file your claim for disability payments.

The Supplemental Security Income process is usually quicker, but it can take several months.