Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

social security disability

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

(courtesy of Outreach Team at Disability Help – Eric Minghella)

If you or someone you love has a disability, financial assistance may be available. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly disability benefits for people in need. Social Security disability benefits are available for people of all ages, so whether you’re applying on behalf of yourself, your newborn child, or your elderly parent, there could be financial assistance available for everyone.

Programs Available for People with Disabilities

The SSA has two different forms of disability benefits. Medically qualifying for both programs is exactly the same, but each program has its own technical criteria.

Disability Insurance

Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, is available for adults age 18-65. SSDI benefits are only available for people who have worked in the past, as it’s funded by SS taxes. The good news is that you do not need to have worked 40 hours per week throughout adulthood to qualify.

Most SSDI recipients have been diagnosed with an illness that abruptly takes them out of the workforce, such as cancer, a spinal cord injury, or other chronic illnesses. The average SSDI candidate receives around $1,200 per month, so keep in mind that SSDI will never replace the income you made while working. SSDI recipients are also eligible for Medicare 24 months after the date at which their condition “became disabling.” This is not necessarily the point at which you applied, but the date at which you were unable to work.

Supplemental Security Income

The second form of disability benefits is known as Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. These benefits do not have any work or age requirements, so your young child or elder parent may be eligible for SSI payments. SSI is for the most financially needy though, so many people are disqualified due to income limits, not medical reasons. An adult applying for SSI benefits cannot earn more than $735 per month to qualify, or have more than $2,000 in saved income or assets. If you’re married, the SSA will take your spouse’s income into consideration as well.

If you’re applying on behalf of a minor child, your income will be evaluated instead. While the limits are not as strict for children as they are for adults, most families earning more than $45,000-$50,000 per year will not qualify. The more children you have, the higher your income limit.

In most states, SSI recipients are automatically enrolled onto Medicaid. There is no waiting period. There is also not a waiting period to receive SSI benefits—Once approved, you should get your first check the following month.

Medically Qualifying for Disability Benefits

Regardless of whether you or someone you love is applying for SSDI or SSI, the SSA will use its own medical guide known as the Blue Book to evaluate your claim to determine if you are medically qualified to receive disability benefits. The Blue Book lists hundreds of conditions that can potentially qualify. Each condition needs to meet different criteria to be approved. Here is an example:

Autism. Autism is listed in the Blue Book, but you’ll need a large amount of medical evidence on your side to prove your claim. To qualify with autism, you’ll need to have medical evidence showing:

  1. Difficulty in all forms of communication and social interaction, plus limited interests in hobbies and activities, AND
  2. An extreme limitation in at least one of the following: Understanding & remembering information, interacting with others, completing tasks, or taking care of yourself*

*Someone with autism could also qualify under section 2 if he or she has some limitation, but not a significant limitation, in two of the four areas of functioning.

The entire Blue Book is available online, so you can review the various listings with your doctor or your loved one’s doctor to see if you might medically qualify.

Starting Your Application

SSDI applicants can actually complete the entire process online. This is by far the easiest way to apply, as you can save your progress and complete the paperwork at a later date.

SSI applicants can review the materials necessary to apply online, but will need to finalize and submit their applications at their nearest SS office. You can schedule an appointment with your local SSA office by calling 1-800-772-1213 toll-free.

This article was written by the Outreach Team at Disability Benefits Help. They provide information about disability benefits and the application process. To learn more, please visit their website at http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/  or by contacting them at help@ssd-help.org.