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Social Security: What are the requirements to apply for disability benefits?

The Social Security Administration oversees two programs that offer support to Americans with disabilities.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Each program has its own set of requirements.


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Who qualifies?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are both available to qualifying individuals. However, they have different eligibility requirements. Read more about it here.

About 17 million Americans received either SSDI or SSI payments at the end of 2021. SSDI is a contributory program and SSI is a non-contributory and is based on needs.

SSDI requirements

The applicant needs to have a qualifying disability for benefits.

A condition expected to last for a minimum of one year or likely to result in death is a disability.

The SSI program uses the same definition.


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SSI requirements

The qualifications for SSI benefits are strict.

Low-income Americans are the target demographic for the program.

In order to get the benefit, you must be at least 65, blind, or have a disability.

Applicants must agree to requests for financial records from the SSA. This is to ensure that you meet the income and resource requirements. There are no fixed threshold as it is based on the claimants circumstances.

To receive the benefit, you can’t be confined in a government funded institution like a hospital or prison. You also can’t leave the country for a cull month of 30 consecutive days.

Once you know you’re eligible, you can begin the application process online or over the phone. You can apply online or via phone call at 1-800-772-1213 (or TTY 1-800-325-0778 for the deaf or hard of hearing) to make an appointment.


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How long does it take for a Social Security claim to be processed?

It usually takes between 3-5 months for the SSA to send you a decision.

The state agency with medical and vocational experts will get your application to make decisions.

You may have to complete additional forms or go for medical examinations to get approval. You can’t begin collecting benefits until the sixth full month of your disability. There is a mandatory five-month waiting period.

How much do you get for SSI and SSDI payments?

In 2022 for SSI, “countable” income and maximum federal SSI payments are set at $841 for individual and $1,261 for couples.

SSDI payments pare determined by the SSA based on factors like age, income, earning history, and personal situation.


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