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What are the requirements and how to apply for Social Security disability benefits?

The Social Security Administration oversees two programs to provide financial support to disabled Americans, each with its own set of qualifications.

Can I get a one-off Social Security payment?

The Social Security Administration oversees two key programs that provide financial support to Americans with disabilities. Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income are both available to individuals who meet certain medical criteria but have differing requirements to qualify.

While payments for the former are based on one’s work history the latter is a needs-based program. Contrary to popular belief, the severity of the recipient’s disability does not affect the size of the payment for either. Recipients may be eligible for both programs at the same time but receiving both, along with other income may affect the amount paid.

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Who qualifies for Social Security disability?

Around 17 million Americans received payments from either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at the end of 2021. Qualification for each program vary as they are funded in different ways. While SSDI is a contributory program, workers pay into the system through a tax on their wages, SSI is a non-contributory entitlement and is based on need.

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Supplemental Security Income requirements

Eligibility requirements for SSI benefits are fairly strict as the program is designed to support specific groups of low-income Americans. Recipients of SSI must be aged 65 or older, blind or disabled. In general recipients must be a US citizen or national, but certain categories of legal aliens are also accepted.

Applicants must agree to any requests from the SSA regarding financial records to check that you meet the limited income and limited resources requirements. There are no fixed thresholds for these criteria as they are related to the claimant’s exact circumstances and the area of the country in which they live.

Beneficiaries cannot be confined to an institution like a prison or hospital that is funded by the government. Additionally, those receiving SSI benefits must not be absent from the country for a full calendar month, or for a spell of 30 consecutive days.

Anyone unsure about whether or not they qualify can call the SSA on 1-800-772-1213 (or TTY 1-800-325-0778 for the deaf or hard of hearing).

Social Security Disability Insurance requirements

In order to claim SSDI benefits, an applicant must meet the medical requirements for being disabled, a condition which is defined as being expected to last for at least one year or will likely result in death, the same as for the SSI program. The applicant must have worked for long enough and paid sufficient Social Security taxes, or the contributor on whose fund the selected family member is applying.

How to apply for Supplemental Security Income

Once you’ve checked the eligibility requirements and are sure that you are entitled to support, you must then start your application. You can begin the process online or over the phone.

Online – Visit Apply Online for Disability Benefits to begin the process. This portal also gives the option to apply for other SSA programmes like the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and SSI, among others.

TelephoneCall 1-800-772-1213 (or TTY 1-800-325-0778 for the deaf or hard of hearing) to make an appointment to apply for SSI. From there you can arrange a telephone appointment with a representative from your local Social Security Office to submit your claim.

You should make your application as soon as possible to avoid missing out on payments. The SSA do not back pay benefits you might have been eligible to receive before the start date of your application.

How long does it take the SSA to process a disability claim?

According to the agency it may take anywhere between three and five months for the SSA to send you a decision. The length of time depends on how long it takes to gather the necessary information to process your claim. Your application is given to the state agency whose medical and vocational experts make the disability decision.

You may be asked to complete further forms, or they may request that you have an examination or medical test which you will not have to pay for. The SSA advises not to miss any appointments for medical tests or examinations.

Once your SSDI application is approved you cannot begin collecting benefits until the sixth full month of your disability is determined to have begun due to a mandatory five-month waiting period.

How much do disabled recipients receive from SSI and SSDI?

The payments for SSI benefits are set by the federal government and many states top up the amount beneficiaries receive each month. If a beneficiary receives SSDI benefits that will be included in what Social Security calls your “countable” income. The amount that exceeds that federally set threshold will be subtracted from the monthly payment a recipient is entitled to, minus a $20 exemption. Both the “countable” income and maximum federal SSI payment are set at $841 a month for individuals and $1,261 for couples in 2022.

On the other hand, SSDI payments are determined by the Social Security Administration based on other factors, such as their age, income level, earning history and personal situation. Receiving other government benefits, such as state disability benefits or workers’ compensation could reduce your monthly SSDI benefit.