Social Security Disability Benefits

Filing for Social Security Disability Benefits

Caring for an individual with a serious health condition or disability often requires a certain level of financial stability. Unfortunately, not all families can afford to care for the special health care needs of a loved one. In circumstances such as these, you may want to look into filing for Social Security Disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers disability benefits to individuals who cannot work due to disability or illness. Monthly benefit payments can be used to cover everything from day-to-day expenses to medical costs. Continue reading to see if your loved one qualifies.

Social Security Disability (SSD) Benefit Programs

The SSA offers disability benefits through two separate programs—Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Each of these programs has been explained below.

SSDI benefits are intended to provide financial assistance to disabled workers and their eligible family members. Because SSDI is an insurance-type program, to qualify, applicants must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a significant amount of time. This program is generally suited to older individuals who have significant employment experience. Learn more about SSDI, here:

SSI benefits provide financial assistance to disabled individuals who earn little to no income. To qualify for SSI, applicants must fall within the financial limitations set by the SSA. These limitations govern the amount of income a person can earn and the amount of resources a person can own. Because SSI has no age or work-related requirements, children and adults with limited work experience often find SSI benefits to be the best option. For more information regarding SSI eligibility, visit the following page:

It is important that you research each of these programs and determine which one is the best fit for your loved one’s circumstances. Please note that in certain situations, applicants may be eligible to receive benefits from both programs.

Social Security Disability Medical Requirements

In addition to meeting the technical eligibility requirements outlined in the previous section, applicants will also have to meet certain medical requirements. Although it may seem obvious, the most basic of the SSA’s requirements is that all applicants must have a disability.

According to the SSA, an adult is disabled if he or she has a long-term medical condition that prevents them from engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). In 2021, SGA for individuals who are blind is set at $2,190 per month. For individuals who have other types of disabilities, SGA is set at $1,310 per month. A child will be considered disabled if he or she has a long-term, physical or mental condition that significantly impacts his or her functional abilities.

If an applicant meets the SSA’s standards of disability, he or she will then be evaluated based on medical criteria specific to his or her particular condition. These requirements are located in the SSA’s Blue Book—the official handbook of qualifying conditions and symptoms. The Blue Book is broken into two different sections, one for child applicants and one for adult applicants. Each section contains listings that detail the SSA’s medical requirements for all potentially disabling conditions.

Be sure to consult the Blue Book prior to submitting an application for disability benefits. If you do not understand the medical or technical terminology used, schedule an appointment with your doctor. He or she can help you determine your eligibility and can conduct the tests needed to prove your eligibility.

Access all Blue Book listings, here. Navigate to the childhood listings in the top left corner.

Preparing for the Application

Before jumping into the Social Security Disability application process, it is important to prepare yourself ahead of time. The SSA will need to see a variety of medical and non-medical records to validate your claim. Medical records may include the following:

  • Documentation of diagnosis
  • History of medical attention, hospitalizations, and treatments
  • Findings of physical and mental examinations
  • CTs, X-rays, MRIs
  • Statements from doctors explaining the applicant’s limitations

Non-medical records will include various forms of identification, financial forms, and employment records. For a complete list of requirements, visit the Adult Disability Checklist or the Childhood Disability Checklist.

Submitting Your Application & Receiving a Decision

After you have collected all necessary documents, you can begin the application process online or in person at your local Social Security office. If you are applying on behalf of a child, you will be required to attend an in-person interview with an SSA representative.

The application itself is made up of several different forms. If an applicant is unable to apply on their own, a family member or caregiver is allowed to file a claim on their behalf. Be sure to take your time when completing the application forms. The information you provide should be detailed, accurate, and consistent. Any false or inconsistent answers could potentially harm the outcome of your claim.

Once you submit your application, it will likely take several months to receive a decision. If you are approved, you will receive a letter outlining your award and payment schedule. Unfortunately, many initial applications are denied. If your loved one’s claim is denied, do not panic. You are allowed to appeal this decision within 60 days of receiving your notice of denial.

Although the appeals process may seem daunting, it is often a necessary step toward being approved for disability benefits. In fact, many more applicants are approved during appeals than during the initial application process.

Stay persistent and organized throughout the process and you will increase your chances of approval.