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Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

If you or someone you love has a disability, you may be eligible for financial assistance. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly disability benefits for people who are unable to work. People of all ages are eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Here’s a little more information on how you may be eligible for additional income that can be used on medical bills, transportation, housing modifications, and any other daily living needs.

Financially Qualifying for Disability Benefits

There are two different disability benefit programs offered by the SSA. The first is Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI. These benefits are for adults who worked throughout adulthood but are no longer able to maintain employment due to a recent disability, such as amputation, vision loss, or a spinal cord injury. So long as you’ve earned around $5,000 in taxable income every year throughout adulthood, you should be eligible for SSDI.

The second form of disability benefits is known as Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. These benefits are available for people of all ages, children included. There are no work requirements for SSI benefits, but SSI does have very strict income limitations. For example, an adult with more than $2,000 in savings will not qualify for SSI benefits. The majority of SSI recipients have a lifelong or congenital illness, such as cerebral palsy or autism.

Medically Qualifying for Disability Benefits

The SSA maintains its own guideline of eligibility, known colloquially as the Blue Book. Medically qualifying for benefits will vary depending on your diagnosis. If your symptoms or test results equal what’s outlined as disabling in the Blue Book, you should be approved for benefits.

For example, anyone with two hand amputations or an amputation at the hip will automatically medically qualify for benefits. Someone with autism, however, will have a slightly harder time qualifying. First, someone with autism will need medical evidence showing both of the following symptoms:

  • Extreme difficulty in verbal and nonverbal communication, as well as social interactions, plus
  • Restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities

Additionally, someone with autism must have an extreme limitation of any one of the following, OR a significant limitation of any two of the following symptoms:

  • Understanding, remembering, and applying information
  • Interacting with others
  • Concentrating and completing tasks
  •  “Adapting” oneself, which essentially means controlling emotions in appropriate settings

Fortunately, the entire Blue Book is found online, so you can review the listings with your doctor to see where you may qualify for benefits. It’s possible you’ll need to take some additional exams to be approved.

Starting Your Application

The easiest way to apply is online on the SSA’s website. If you’re unable to type for extended periods of time, you can ask a loved one to apply on your behalf. All SSI applicants will unfortunately need to complete the application in person at a SSA office. To schedule an appointment to apply in person, simply call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.

It should take three to five months to hear back from the SSA. Once your claim is approved, you can focus on what’s important: your health.

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