I’ve met quite a few people who think they cannot apply for Social Security disability. Sometimes this is true. Sometimes not.
If you’ve somehow gotten the impression that you are not eligible, don’t give up hope just yet.
I have been brainstorming every way I possibly think of that someone might still qualify, and I’ve come up with twenty ways! I hope one of these will apply to you:
🌺 Option One: Check the Facts
Sometimes people think they can’t apply because of myths and misinformation. Such as: You can’t apply because you haven’t been sick for 12 months (wrong!), You can’t apply because you are working (wrong!). You can’t apply because you are young (most definitely wrong!) Or you can’t apply because you don’t have the right diagnosis (wrong again!). Check out how to tell if you can apply.
🌺 Option Two: Learn the Difference Between SSI and SSDI
SSI an SSDI are two different programs. If you are poor, you can always apply for SSI. Ignore everything else you see and everything else you are told. Ignore work credits, ignore work history, ignore date last insured, and even ignore the notices from Social Security telling you that you are not eligible for disability. Once again, if you are poor you can always apply for SSI. It is difficult to figure out how poor one needs to be, but as a general rule, most people who are eligible for food stamps are also eligible for SSI.
🌺 Option Three: Follow the Regs
If you are poor, but you are told you cannot apply for SSI, something has gone wrong! It may be something really simple. Like maybe your bank account is just $1 too high. Or maybe you have too many cars. Check out Regulations that Make SSI Stop or Start and Ten Common Reasons SSI Might be Denied
🌺 Option Four: Correct Your Record
You can check your earnings record. Make sure all your work is appearing there. If anything is missing and you add it in now, you may become eligible!! The chart on this website will show you how close you are to qualifying. Correcting errors can be difficult, if you run into problems you may wish to contact your congressperson for help.
🌺 Option Five: Get Extra Credit
You need a certain amount of work credits to qualify SSDI. Sometimes someone is only one credit away. Or just half a credit. In these situations, many lawyers recommend to wait until you have earned more credits and then apply. Sometimes a small job working at home a few hours per week can be enough to make the difference. You can figure out how many more credits you need and then you can learn How to Get Extra Credit
🌺 Option Six: Go Back in Time
Work credits expire. If you had enough credits but they expired, you may be able to be approved disability if you can show that you became disabled before the expiration date. You can check to see when your credits expired and then you can learn how to go back in time.
🌺 Option Seven: Reopen an Old Case
Here’s a different way to go back in time. If you ever applied before, you may be able to get your old case reopened. Learn more.
🌺 Option Eight: Be a Widow
If you are disabled, you can collect widow’s benefits earlier than most people. Benefits can begin at age 50 if you are disabled (age 60 if you are not). To qualify for the early benefits, you still have to apply for disability and go through the full application like everyone else.
🌺 Option Nine: Be an ex-Widow
If you were previously married for at least ten years and then got divorced, you may still be able to do the widow thing mentioned above.
🌺 Option Ten: Get Sick Young
If you were under the age of 22 when you first became disabled, you may be eligible for disability based on your parent’s work history. Learn more about Disabled Adult Children. (Hint: If you are now significantly older than 22 it may be more difficult to pull this off).
🌺 Option Eleven: Government Employees
Some government employees do not pay into Social Security and are not eligible for Social Security. Instead they pay into a different system run by their employer. If this is your situation, please contact your current or former employer and ask how to apply for disability through their system
🌺 Option Twelve: Double Check
If you applied recently and then got a letter or saw something online that said denied or ineligible, don’t freak out. Sometimes they are just writing to say that you can’t get SSI but you can still get SSDI. Sometimes they are saying the same thing the other way around. Sometimes the online account says weird things and then updates in a few days.
🌺 Option Thirteen: If You Got Divorced
If you were turned down in the past, but since then you have gotten divorced, you may now qualify to apply for SSI. If you and your spouse still live together, Social Security may continue to consider you married — this is called “holding out as married.” If living separately, child support is allowed and will not affect the parent’s SSI if it is used for only the child’s share of rent and expenses.
🌺 Option Fourteen: Separate Living
If you are living separately from your spouse, Social Security will not count your spouse’s income when determining SSI. According to the policy, separations that are intended to be temporary do not count (for example, living apart because of a job does not count as separation). According to these regulations, the spouses do not need to be legally separated, but may need to show proof that they are living separately and no longer functioning as a married couple.
🌺 Option Fifteen: Your Employer
If you are currently employed, or you were recently employed, check with your employer to see if they offer long term or short term disability insurance. This can give you a different (sometimes better) type of disability to apply for.
🌺 Option Sixteen: Follow the Financial Policies
If you have an inheritance, retirement plan or other money that is keeping you from qualifying for SSI, you have a variety of options. For example, Social Security policies will allow you to buy a house, buy a car, spend the money, or put the money in a trust for yourself. Policies that Make SSI Stop or Start
🌺 Option Seventeen: Submit or Amend Past Tax Returns
If you have tax returns from past years that you have not yet submitted to the IRS, you may want to get those in so that they will be included in your earnings. Also, a few times I have met people who discovered mistakes in their past tax returns and amended the returns, then corrected their earnings records. Not easy, but not impossible. For example, I met one woman who was running a small business and her accountant had incorrectly attributed half the business income to her husband. She was able to go back and correct her past tax returns to make them accurate.
🌺 Option Eighteen: Get Turned Down in Writing
This sounds crazy but it is actually true. Many people never apply. They call or visit Social Security. They get told something and then they go home and give up. Never give up just because someone told you something. Learn the policies yourself, apply, and make sure they give you an answer in writing. Here’s How Sage Got Approved by Ignoring Everything He Was Told
🌺 Option Nineteen: Appeal the SSI Decision
If you are told that you have too much money to be eligible for SSI, and you believe this is not true, it is possible a mistake was made. First, request an SSI interview where they will ask you financial questions and process your application. Second, they will mail you the decision in writing. Once again, always get a decision in writing. Never accept no for an answer over the phone. Third, you can appeal. Ask Social Security to give you a copy of the form that you need to fill out to appeal. You do not need a lawyer. A lawyer is nice but you probably won’t find one who will help with this. You can do it yourself. If you run into problems and believe Social Security is not correctly following their policies, contact your congressperson for help.
🌺 Option Twenty: Appeal the SSDI Decision
If you are told you do not have enough work credits to be eligible for SSDI, and you believe this is not true, it is possible a mistake was made. First, submit an application to apply for disability. Second, they will mail you the decision in writing. Third, you can appeal. Ask Social Security to give you a copy of the form that you need to fill out appeal. You do not need a lawyer. A lawyer is nice but you probably won’t find one who will help with this. You can do it yourself. If you run into problems and believe Social Security is not correctly following their policies, contact your congressperson for help.
Out of Options?
Although it is uncommon, I have on occasion met someone who is truly not eligible to apply for anything. The people I have met in this situation were all married, their spouses had good income, and they were either stay-at-home parents or people who had stopped working more than five years ago. Sometimes these people really are eligible if they explore all the steps above, but every now and then, someone just is not.
It may be helpful to keep in mind that Social Security is not the only kind of help you can apply for. There are many other programs that you can apply for even if you are not on Social Security.
Updated May 2017. 🌺