Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income Basics:

The Social Security Administration has established two programs for people who have become disabled and are unable to sustain work in order to earn a living:

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

This program was established for those who have worked and paid taxes for years prior to becoming ill and unable to work. Individual assets or family income is not considered. If a person is entitled to SSDI, any natural children, stepchildren or adopted children can receive dependent benefits until age 18, or if the child is a full-time secondary school student, until age 19. These benefits stop if the child marries.

  • Disabled Widow’s/Widower’s Benefits: If one is of retirement age (62 years), he/she can receive Social Security retirements benefits based on the spouse’s earnings and contributions to FICA can be considered in determining the amount of disability benefit entitlement. The claimant must be at least 50 years of age and disabled at the time of the spouse’s death or within seven years of that date. With a few exceptions, he or she will qualify if the marriage lasted for at least nine months.
  • SSDI Benefits for Disabled Adult Children: For a child who is disabled when he or she attains 18 years of age or who becomes disabled before turning age 22, the Social Security benefits can be continued for as long as the person is disabled. The parent, step-parent, or adoptive parent must be receiving Social Security retirement or SSDI and was entitled to one of these benefits before they died. (In some cases, a grandchild or step grandchild can be eligible if the parents are deceased.) The young adult must meet Social Security’s adult definition of disability.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI):

This program is a “needs-based” program for those who are unable to work, even if they have not worked or paid taxes into the Social Security system. There are guidelines regarding family assets and income.

    • Disabled children whose families have low income can collect SSI until they attain 18 years of age, at which point they may be eligible for adult SSI benefits. Different criteria are considered for adults, and the parents’ income will no longer be considered as part of the eligibility requirements. However, if the child still receives food and shelter from the parents, this may lower the child’s monthly disability benefit amount.

The Social Security Administration will evaluate all alleged physical and mental impairments:

      • Both SSDI and SSI require a claimant to be unable to perform substantial work, which in 2019, is set at earnings of $1220 or more per month before taxes. (There are special provision for blind claimants, and the cut-off is $2040 before taxes.) This inability to work must be due to physical or mental impairment or a combination of impairments that is expected to last at least 12 months or is expected to be terminal. If a claimant is working substantial hours, as may be demonstrated in self-employment, work may be considered as substantial work, regardless of income.
      • When a claim is filed for disability benefits, information will be collected to address all impairments, symptoms, doctors, hospitals, clinics, therapists, etc. involved in treatment.
      • The Social Security Administration will consider if a claimant has a severe impairment or impairments, and whether the condition(s) meets specific medical criteria or if the combined effect prevents the performance of past job or jobs held in the past 15 years. Then, the Social Security will consider ability to perform other work. They will take into consideration health limitations, age, level of education and skills acquired from working.

Note: It is not uncommon for an application for SSDI or SSI to be denied at the initial level. Appealing the denial is typically required to win a disability claim and is usually a better choice than filing a new claim. Disability applicants with a representative to advocate for them have a much higher chance of winning than those who are not represented. Although many claimants wait until they file for a hearing with an administrative law judge, obtaining a representative early in the process will provide the necessary assistance throughout the process and help ensure the evidence needed to prove disability is obtained. Choosing an experienced representative who specializes in SSDI and SSI claims will provide a prospective claimant with an advocate with knowledge of the Social Security’s Regulations and Rulings, which change and evolve.

Note: This information on this page is intended to provide general information to assist individuals who may be considering pursuing disability benefits. They do not and cannot cover every scenario. If you are wondering if you may possibly qualify for benefits, you are welcome to contact us for more information.

© Copyright - CHARIS DISABILITY ADVOCATES LLCDisclaimer: The choice of a representative is an important one and should not be based solely upon advertisements. This website is for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as legal advice. Please note that results may vary. Past results do not guarantee similar outcomes.