If you are disabled and you’re no longer able to work, you should learn how Social Security can help you. Disability is something most people do not like to think about. However, the unfortunate reality is this: The chances that you will become disabled are probably far greater than you realize.

Studies show that a 20-year-old worker has a more than one-in-four chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age.  Social Security pays benefits to people with disabilities through the Social Security disability insurance program, which is financed by Social Security taxes.

If you qualify, you can receive a monthly disability benefit from Social Security for as long as your disability keeps you from working.

The amount of your benefit is based on your average lifetime earnings.

Potential Medicare coverage is dependent on several factors and usually starts after you receive disability cash benefits for 24 months.

When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn credits. The number of credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age, and in any event, you must have worked recently.

For example, if you become disabled after age 31, you need to have worked at least a total of 10 years— at least five of those must have been worked within the past 10 years. However, if you become disabled before age 24, you need only one and a half years of work in the past three years.

If you have a disability that keeps you from working, the time to get started with your application is now. That’s because it takes time to determine whether you qualify for benefits.

It usually takes about three to five months for a medical decision from the state agency that evaluates your condition.

If your application is approved, your first Social Security disability payment will be made for the sixth full month after the date we determine that your disability began.

Given the time it can take, it’s in your best interest to do everything you can to speed up the process.

The best first step is for you to read our online publication, Disability Benefits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. It will tell you all about the process, including the information you will need to apply for benefits.

Then, take advantage of our online disability starter kits. You will find them on our disability website at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability. From that page, simply select the option to apply for benefits online. You will find the disability starter kits on the resulting page.

There is one kit for children and one for adults, and each kit is available in both English and Spanish.

The starter kits help you begin the process by providing information about the specific documents and the information that we will request from you.

Take a look at the disability starter kit now at www.socialsecurity. gov/disability.

Once you complete the online disability starter kit and you’re ready to apply, the most convenient way to do that is also online. Just go to the same disability website at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.