Social Security Disability Benefits 101 - Eligibility
This guide will give you the basic information on eligibility criteria for Social Security disability benefits (SSI/SSDI).
Eligibility for SSI and SSDISSI, or Supplemental Security Income, is the Social Security Administration's disability benefit for individuals of limited means. To be eligible for SSI, you must be over age 65, blind, or disabled, and have limited resources and income. This program is open to adults and children with disabilities.
What income affects eligibility for SSI?
Social Security has special rules for what types of income they will count towards the income limit, and how they will count it. Therefore, even if it seems like your income may be over the limit, you may still qualify under their rules. Social Security counts the follow types of income towards the income limit:
o Money you earn from working;
o Money you receive from sources such as Social Security, retirement, alimony, child support, or other benefits;
o The value of free food or shelter you may receive from a nongovernmental source; and
o A portion of income earned by someone who lives with you, such as your spouse.
SSDI, or Social Security Disability Insurance, is the Social Security Administration's disability benefit for disabled workers. To be eligible for SSDI, you must have worked and paid into the Social Security system for a certain amount of time, depending on your age at the time you became disabled.
What is the criteria for Social Security disability benefits?SSA follows a stringent definition of disability. In order for an adult to be considered disabled for SSI or SSDI benefits:
1) you must be unable to work above a certain earnings level;
2) you must have a severe impairment that lasted or is expected to last 12 months or result in death; and,
3) your impairment must either:
a) meet a listing;*
b) medically equal a listing;* or,
c) prevent you from engaging in your prior work, and in any job in the national economy.
*SSA's listings can be found HERE. The listings consist of medical and psychiatric impairments with specific symptoms present in a marked or severe degree. For example, though HIV/AIDS is a medical condition found in the listings, not every person diagnosed with HIV/AIDS will "meet or medically equal" the HIV/AIDS listing. In order to do so, the person must show the specific, marked symptoms detailed in the listings.
Disabled ChildrenChildren of limited means can apply for SSI benefits if they are disabled. In order for a child under the age of 18 to be considered disabled for SSI benefits, s/he must:
1) have a severe impairment that lasted or is expected to last 12 months or result in death; and, either
2) meet a listing;
3) medically equal a listing; or,
4) functionally equal a listing, because the impairment causes marked or severe limitations in the child's activities.
Disabled children may also be eligible to receive benefits under their parent's or grandparents record, through the SSDI program.