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A Guide to Social Security Disability Benefits by Molly Clarke

February 27th, 2014

A Guide to Social Security Disability Benefits
by Molly Clarke

If you are caring for an individual with a disability, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits on his or her behalf. These benefits can be used to cover the cost of day-to-day expenses like food, shelter, and clothing.

Although disability benefits are intended to make life easier, qualifying for and receiving these benefits can be quite overwhelming. To help you begin the application process, we have provided you with a step-by-step guide to the benefits available to you.

1. Explore your Options.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees the two main disability benefit programs in the United States. These programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 
SSDI benefits are offered to disabled workers and their eligible family members. To qualify, applicants are required to have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a significant amount of time.  

SSI benefits are offered to disabled individuals of all ages who earn little to no income. To qualify, applicants must fall within the financial limits set by the SSA. These limits govern the amount of income and financial resources a person can have.

To learn more about eligibility for these two programs, visit the following page:

2. Research the Social Security Disability medical requirements.

To qualify for SSDI and SSI, applicants must meet the SSA’s standards of disability. The SSA uses the following criteria to measure an applicant’s eligibility:
• The applicant cannot do the work they did prior to becoming disabled;
• The applicant has a physical or mental condition that prevents them from engaging in Substantial Gainful
Activity (SGA). In 2014, a person is considered to be performing SGA if he or she earns more than $1,070 per month; and
• The applicant’s condition has lasted, or is expected to last, at least one year or result in death.

These criteria make up the SSA’s definition of disability. Unfortunately, individuals who do not meet this definition will not qualify for disability benefits.

In addition to meeting these basic requirements, applicants will also be assessed based on their specific disability or illness. To gauge the severity of a person’s condition, the SSA refers to a guidebook of disabilities—known as the Blue Book.  The Blue Book contains listings for different conditions and groups of conditions that qualify for disability benefits. Prior to beginning the application process, we suggest you look through the Blue Book listings to determine whether or not your loved one meets the criteria pertaining to his or her specific condition. Access all Blue Book listings, here:

3. Prepare and submit your application.

Once you have determined that the person in your care is eligible for disability benefits, it is time to prepare for the application process. To do so, you should collect copies of records pertaining to the applicant’s health condition, finances, and employment history. For a complete list of required records, visit the Adult Disability Interview Checklist.

The actual application is made up of several different forms. It is important that you take your time when completing these. Any incomplete, false, or missing information could result in the denial of your claim. These forms can be filled out on the SSA’s website or you can schedule an appointment to fill them out in person at a local Social Security office.

4. Receiving a decision.

On average, it can take anywhere from a month to a year to receive the SSA’s decision on your initial application. Wait times can fluctuate drastically depending on the nature of the applicant’s disability, how quickly medical evidence is obtained, and how quickly the applicant responds to the SSA’s requests for more information.

If you are approved, you will receive a letter in the mail that outlines the benefits you will receive. If you are denied, you will receive a letting in the mail containing the reason for denial and the instructions for filing an appeal.

If you are denied, do not be discouraged. More than half of all initial applications are denied. In fact, more disability claims are approved during the appeals process than after the initial application. If you remain persistent in your efforts—no matter how frustrating it gets—you have a better chance of receiving the benefits you need.

For more information regarding Social Security Disability benefits, visit the Social Security Disability Help blog or contact Molly Clarke at

Molly Clarke writes for the Social Security Disability Help blog. Click here to read more by Molly.

One Person had this to say...

Caleb Said...

For help with social security disability claims legal help might be needed. IF the process is not handled correctly major delays could occur. An experienced lawyer could help through the process and gain approval for your claim.

  • March 14th, 2014 at 10:12 am

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