How Do I Know if I am Eligible to Apply?

Artwork: Elizabeth D’Angelo

Social Security has two different disability programs. They are called SSI and SSDI.

Most people are eligible for at least one of these programs.

If someone has told you that you are not eligible, look here: Eighteen Ways You Can Qualify for Social Security Even When You Think You Can’t

If you are not sure if you are eligible, and you don’t want to read this page, just go ahead and apply. Social Security will tell you which program you are eligible for.

If you want to read this page, you may.

Can I apply?

Many people get strange ideas in their head about what is required to apply for Social Security. Sometimes these strange ideas come from lawyers, Social Workers or someone who works at Social Security! Forget everything you have been told, here is what you need to apply:

🌟 One: Severe Condition

You must have a severe condition. You do not need to be in a wheelchair or bedridden, but your condition needs to be bad enough that you would be unable to work full time (or unable to earn $1,170 per month). In most cases, you must be unable to work this amount in any job. That means you cannot work as a ticket taker, laundry folder, or store greeter.

🌟 Two: Twelve Months Expected

Your condition must be expected to last at least twelve months. If you have been sick for less than twelve months, you can still apply right now if you and your doctor think that you will likely still be sick when the twelve month point hits

🌟 Three: No Work or Little Work

You need to be not working right now, or you can be working but earning under $1,170 per month. Some disability lawyers report that working makes it harder to get approved, but it is still possible. If you are working, please also check with your employer to see if they offer private disability benefits you can apply for. Also check out this article on How to Apply for Disability While Working

🌟 Four: Diagnosed with SOMETHING

Realistically, in order to have a chance to be approved, you need some kind of diagnosis. The specific diagnosis is often not as important as the way your illness limits you. If you feel not entirely sure what is wrong (welcome to the club), you can still get approved as long as a doctor has diagnosed you with something and your condition is severe and disabling. Most people are approved based on a combination of impairments, so be sure to list every single thing you have been diagnosed with. Mental health diagnosis can often be very important in disability cases, even if your condition is primarily physical.

🌟 Five: One of These Things

You must have one of these: A) You are poor enough or B) You worked enough. You don’t need both. Just one. How poor is poor enough? How much work is enough work? See below for more details on A and B.

🌟 Six: ?

There is no six. If someone is telling you that something else is required, they are confused.

Your Options

Social Security has two different programs, they are called SSI and SSDI. Some people get one and some people get both. If you don’t know what to apply for, don’t worry. Just apply for both and Social Security will tell you what you qualify for. Here’s some more details:

Option A: SSI

🌟  If you are poor, you are eligible to apply for SSI. How poor is poor enough? It is very difficult to answer that question, but as a general rule, if you are eligible for Food Stamps, you are probably eligible for SSI.

🌟 Here’s how to tell: Just apply. Social Security will tell you if you are poor enough. The formula is super complicated.

Option B: SSDI

🌟 Both programs are good, but SSDI is kinda the better one. You can qualify for SSDI if you worked and paid taxes, but it depends how much you worked and how recently you worked.

🌟 Here’s how to tell: You can create an online Social Security account or you can check if you got a recent statement in the mail or you can call Social Security and ask if you are now eligible for disability.

🌟 If you see something that says you can get “Social Security Disability” that means you worked enough and paid enough taxes and can apply now for SSDI.

🌟 If you are young, working even a small amount may be enough. I met one person who had only worked part-time for one year and still qualified.

🌟 I would recommend that you don’t get bogged down in nitty-gritty details, however, if you really want to see all the nitty-gritty details on how much you have to work and pay taxes to qualify for SSDI, look here.

Option C: Both 

🌟 Most people just apply for both and see what happens. You can apply for both at the same time and most of the application is exactly the same.

🌟 If you are poor, always apply for both if you can. You can apply for both SSI and SSDI at the same time. Some people don’t apply for SSI because they have learned some of the rules and think they know what they are doing when really what they are doing is opening up the window and throwing money out of it.

Option D: Neither?

🌟 If you are told you are not eligible for disability, or if you almost qualify for SSDI but not quite, don’t panic. There may be some other ways to qualify.

Now What?

If you are disabled from illness and you are eligible for anything at all, you can go ahead and start your application.

Please don’t wait and don’t get bogged down trying to learn about complex eligibility policies and regulations. Some people get so caught up in all this other crap, they give up and never even apply!

Social Security disability has a time limit. If you wait too long you may have less options or no options. If you are too sick to continue working and you have decided that disability is the right path for you… start your application now. You can figure out the other stuff later.

Updated: May 2017 🌟

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