Qualifying for Benefits

There are two Social Security Administration programs of disability benefits:

The Social Security Administration looks at medical and non-medical factors to determine if someone is eligible for benefits. While non-medical factors like personal income and resources are assessed differently for SSDI and SSI, the medical factors and the basic process are the same.

To obtain benefits under either program (SSDI or SSI), an adult applicant must meet a strict definition of disability. To be considered disabled under Social Security rules, we must determine that you cannot do work that you did before, that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical conditions, and that your disability has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least one year, or to result in death. Similarly, a child under the age of 18 will be considered disabled for SSI purposes if he or she has a physical or mental condition (or combination of conditions) that results in marked and severe functional limitations, and the condition(s) has lasted, or is expected to last at least one year or is expected to result in death. (The child also must not be engaging in any work considered to be substantial gainful activity.)

It is important to point out that the definition of disability under Social Security is different than other programs. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or for short-term disability. Social Security program rules assume that working families have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disability, including workers' compensation, insurance, savings and investments.

For more information on qualifying for disability benefits, visit the Social Security Administration website or your local SSA office.