The Social Security Administration (SSA) encourages people to apply directly online or to make an appointment to file by phone as soon as the person becomes disabled.
A person who has a severe physical or mental disability that has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least one year or more or result in death may apply if they also are limited in their ability to work and earn countable income of more than $1,350 a month or more than $2,260 if blind. Unlike some organizations or government programs, SSA does not pay benefits for partial disability or for short term disability of less than 12 months.
There are two programs under which SSA pays a monthly benefit based on a disability:
- Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI) paid to: (1) adults (called wage earners) who are ages 18 up to full retirement age (ranges from 65-67) and have worked long enough and recently enough and paid Social Security taxes; and (2) to a wage earner’s eligible dependent children (called Disabled Adult Child (DAC)) age 18 and over whose disability began before age 22; or to (3) a surviving disabled widow/widower(DWB) who is ages 50-60 and meets certain technical rules of eligibility.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits are paid to children and adults who have limited income and limited resources. The parent’s income and resources (savings) are considered for children under age 18. After age 18 the parent’s income and resources (savings) are no longer considered.
- If the SSI applicant has more than $2,000 in countable resources, they may want to consider opening an ABLE account for depositing cash resources. ABLE savings up to $100,000 are not counted as a resource for SSI.
If you have questions about which benefit you may qualify for, you may want to telephone SSA before filing or starting the process.
There are several ways that you can apply for benefits or start the process:
- Apply Online for Disability Benefits to file the SSDI application. At this time, you cannot file for benefits as a DAC or DWB online; or
- Schedule an appointment at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
- In all cases, complete the Adult Disability Report online in advance. This will speed up the process.
- You can get started but you cannot file the SSI application online. The link will allow you to set up your appointment to file online instead of calling the office; or
- Schedule an appointment at 1-800-772-1213 to apply for SSI disability benefits. SSA will decide if you can come into the office to file or whether you can file by phone interview. There are in-office restrictions due to COVID. If someone is deaf or hard of hearing, they may call the toll-free TTY number 1-800-325-0778 to review their options.
Learn what you need when applying for Disability Benefits including information about yourself, about your disability condition, doctor contact information and any employment information for the last two years. Once you have applied, you can check the status of your application online or you can appeal the decision if you are denied benefits, within 60 days of getting a denial letter.
You do not have to be earning income as an employee of a company or from any other source in addition to your Social Security payment. However, if you are listed as a dependent on someone else’s federal tax return you may not be eligible.
Cornell University’s Institute on Employment and Disability has released guidance on the impact of COVID-19 on public benefits.
LIHEAP ( Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program) is a federally-funded program that helps low-income households pay their home heating and cooling bills. LIHEAP agencies across the country are working to address COVID-19 and are providing resources. Customers can use these resources to stay informed about program changes in their area and not miss opportunities for assistance.
Recently, some states have begun to allow authorized retailers to accept SNAP for online purchases for delivery. Only eligible food may be purchased with SNAP benefits; delivery fees and other associated charges may not be paid for with SNAP benefits. A SNAP beneficiary needs to pay delivery fees from another source such as savings or with an ABLE savings account debit card.
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The Financial Resilience Center was developed by National Disability Institute with generous funding from the Wells Fargo Foundation.