Applying for Social Security Benefits With a Disability?

Guest Author: Deanna Power

Living with a disability can be hard enough without worrying about making ends meet. If your disability is a severe condition that makes it impossible to work and is expected to last for at least a year, applying for Social Security benefits could be the extra assistance you need to live without financial strain. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two types of benefits for people with disabilities.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is based on how long you’ve worked and how much you’ve paid into Social Security in taxes. Those over the age of 31 typically need to have worked a job that pays into Social Security for any five of the last ten years. SSDI benefits are based on your previous income. Payments start five months after the reported onset date, although some claims can take up to two years to process. In this case, you would be paid for those missed months through a lump-sum check upon approval.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is an income supplement funded by general tax revenue, not Social Security taxes, for those with little to no income. Because of this, it is the best option for children or others without significant work history. SSI benefits can start being paid the first of the month after the onset date, although it does often take a few months for approval. SSI has strict financial limits. Any applicant who owns more than $2,000 in assets (stocks, bonds, life insurance) will not qualify for SSI benefits.

To apply for disability benefits, you will need a birth certificate, tax information, thorough medical information and other documents. For a complete checklist on what you’ll need to apply, review the Adult Disability Starter Kit on the SSA’s website.

To apply for a child under the age of 18, first review the Child Disability Starter Kit for answers to common questions and a checklist of necessary information. To prepare for the application, complete the Child Disability Report online, making sure to give your child’s doctor permission to release information about the disability to the SSA. Unlike SSDI applications, SSI applications must be completed in person, so be sure to make an appointment with your local SSA office.

Once you are approved for SSDI, you are automatically eligible for Medicare Part A two years after you being receiving benefits. SSI applicants can receive Medicaid, not Medicare. In most states, the SSI and Medicaid applications are the same and Medicaid starts when SSI does. More information can be found on states that do not include Medicaid benefits with an SSI approval here:

If you have already applied for either program and your application was denied, you can appeal the decision. If you were denied for medical reasons, you can fill out the Appeal Request and Appeal Disability Report or contact your local Social Security office in person or 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 for TTY.

Deanna Power
Content Contributor
Disability Benefits Center