According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about a quarter of all U.S. adults live with a disability that impacts a major life activity. That’s about 61 million Americans.
Not all of those disabilities qualify the person for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The two Social Security Disability programs only cover people under 65 who are completely disabled from working and will be for at least a year (or the disability will result in their death).
The fact remains that most people will either experience having a disability or know someone who has one. What are the most common types?
The CDC, using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, measures six types of disability. Here they are from most to least common:
- Mobility issues (serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs): 13.7%
- Cognition issues (serious difficulty remembering, concentrating or making decisions): 10.8%
- Independent living issues (serious difficulty doing errands alone): 6.8%
- Hearing problems (deafness or serious difficulty hearing): 5.9%
- Vision impairment (blindness or serious difficulty seeing): 4.6%
- Self-care issues (difficulty bathing or dressing): 3.7%
People with any of these disabilities might qualify for Social Security Disability if their condition makes it impossible to work. Moreover, as we age, our ability to substitute one type of work for another generally decreases. Therefore, older people are more likely to be completely disabled from working based on their disabling condition.
Social Security Disability is insurance you have paid for
If you have developed a physical or mental condition, whether an injury or an illness, that is keeping you from working and will do so for at least a year, you may have a claim for Social Security Disability. Whether you qualify for SSDI or SSI depends on whether you have earned a certain number of work credits. There are four work credits available each year, and you need 40 to qualify for SSDI. Twenty of those 40 must have been earned in the last 10 years.
If you do not qualify for SSDI due to lack of work credits, you may qualify for SSI. However, SSI is further limited in that it only goes to people of very limited means. If you have a net worth of over $2,000, you may not qualify for SSI. However, the Social Security Administration only counts certain types of resources towards this limit.
SSDI and SSI are part of our social safety net. People who work pay taxes toward these programs. People should never feel embarrassed or ashamed for using these benefits.
Does my disability have to be work-related to qualify?
No. The Social Security Disability programs cover any type of mental or physical medical condition that keeps you from working for a year or longer – but your condition doesn’t have to be caused by work.
If you have become disabled due to an incident at work or an occupational illness, you may qualify for workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability. However, the Social Security Administration may reduce your SSDI or SSI benefits somewhat if you apply for both benefits.
Talk to a lawyer about your rights
You can apply for Social Security Disability on your own or get help from an attorney. If your claim is initially denied, an attorney can help you appeal. The fees your attorney can charge are set by law and are contingent on your claim being approved. The fee is 25% of your back benefits or $6,000 per case, whichever is lower.