Do I Qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance or
Supplemental Security Income?
In This Section……..
WHAT ARE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY INSURANCE (SSDI) AND
SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME (SSI)? ..................................................... 11-2
WHAT’S THE MAIN DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SSDI AND SSI? ......................... 11-2
DO I NEED TO BE A U.S. CITIZEN TO QUALIFY FOR SSDI AND SSI? ............. 11-2
CAN I GET SSDI AND SSI IF I AM HOMELESS? IN A SHELTER? ..................... 11-3
CAN I GET SSI/SSDI IF I HAVE A HISTORY OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE? ........... 11-3
ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY INSURANCE (SSDI) .......................... 11-3
The Difference Between SSDI And Workers' Compensation ....................... 11-3
SSDI Medical Requirements ........................................................................ 11-3
Can Members Of My Family Get SSDI Benefits? ….........................………. 11-4
Work Requirements To Qualify For SSDI .................................................... 11-4
How Much Money Will I Get? ....................................................................... 11-6
When Should I Apply For SSDI? ………………………………………............ 11-6
How Do I Apply For SSDI? ........................................................................... 11-6
What Information Will I Need? …………………………………………………. 11-6
How Do Other Payments Affect My SSDI Benefits? ………………………… 11-7
If I Am Receiving Disability Benefits, Can I Go Back To Work? ……………. 11-7
What is the "Ticket to Work" program? ………………………………... 11-8
ABOUT SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME (SSI) ......................................... 11-8
SSI Medical Requirements ........................................................................... 11-8
What Are The Rules For Getting SSI? ………………………………………… 11-8
Money ……………….……………………………………………………. 11-8
Resources (things you own) ……………………………………………. 11-9
Other Rules You Must Meet To Qualify For SSI …………………………... 11-9
How Do I Apply For SSI? ............................................................................. 11-9
A Note For People Who Are Blind Or Disabled ............................................ 11-10
How Long Will It Take Before I Get My First Check? ................................... 11-10
DON'T BE DISCOURAGED IF YOUR CLAIM IS DENIED! ................................... 11-10
A SUMMARY OF YOUR RIGHTS .......................................................................... 11-11
WHERE TO GO FOR HELP (RESOURCES) ......................................................... 11-11
Long-term illness or injury can be frightening. It is unfortunate, but studies show
that a 20 year-old worker has a 3- in-10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching
retirement age. Take Javier, for example. For several years, Javie r had been working
for a trucking company hauling logs to a mill. One day while he was not at work, he
had an auto accident and was very seriously injured. He now faces a long recovery time, numerous
trips to the doctor and physical therapy. His doctor says it is possible that he will never be able to work
again. Unfortunately for Javier and his family, the bills do not stop just because he is injured. His
savings are running out. He needs help and now has to apply for Social Security (long-term) Disability
Insurance, so that he and his family can survive.
WHAT ARE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY INSURANCE (SSDI) AND SUPPLEMENTAL
SECURITY INCOME (SSI)?
If you become disabled and cannot work for at least 12 months, you may qualify for disability benefits
(an amount of money) paid for by the Social Security Administration. This is a federal agency that is
separate from the WA State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). Being disabled means you
have physical or mental problems that make it difficult to perform some or all of the basic tasks of
daily life. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability
or for short-term disability.
There are two programs that pay monthly cash benefits — Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To get SSDI and SSI, you must be disabled under the Social
Security Administration’s rules. That means that you have physical and/or mental health problems that
make you unable to work for at least 12 months. Depending on your situation, you may qualify for
benefits under one or both of these programs.
SSI and SSDI come with healthcare benefits. With SSDI, you will get Medicare coverage
automatically after you have received disability benefits for two years. With SSI, you get Medicaid.
WHAT’S THE MAIN DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SSDI AND SSI?
SSDI in most cases is for people with disabilities who have a work history. You must have worked
long enough and paid Social Security taxes. The amount of SSDI you get depends on your past
earnings. SSDI has no income or asset (the value of things you own) limits.
SSI is for people with disabilities who have low incomes and assets less than $2,000. You can get SSI
if you have never worked. SSI benefits are also payable to people 65 years and older without
disabilities who meet the financial limits.
DO I NEED TO BE A U.S. CITIZEN TO QUALIFY FOR SSDI AND SSI?
It depends. To apply, you must be a U.S. citizen or national, or a documented non-citizen. It is easier
to get SSDI than SSI if you are not a U.S. citizen, but there are still limits. Your immigration status
affects whether you can get SSI. The rules are complicated. Consult one of the legal services listed at
the end of Chapters 1, 5, 9, or 10. If you have Internet access, see Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
For Non-Citizens, at www.ssa.gov/pubs/11051.html#part1.
CAN I GET SSDI AND SSI IF I AM HOMELESS? IN A SHELTER?
Yes. You do not need to have a home to get SSDI or SSI, only a way for the Social Security
Administration to contact you and pay your benefits (by mail or direct deposit). There are no limits on
getting SSDI in a shelter. You can get SSI for six months out of every nine months you stay in a
public (government-run) emergency shelter. There is no time limit on getting SSI in a private shelter.
CAN I GET SSI/SSDI IF I HAVE A HISTORY OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE?
Yes. Substance abuse alone is no longer considered a disability, but you may qualify for benefits
because you have other health or mental problems that keep or have kept you from working.
What If My Health Problems Are Caused By Substance Abuse?
It doesn’t matter how your other health problems started. For example, if you are disabled by liver
disease that you got from drinking, you might still qualify for SSI/SSDI if your liver disease would
still be disabling if you stopped drinking.
ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY INSURANCE (SSDI)
What's The Difference Between SSDI And Workers' Compensation?
Workers’ compensation (see Chapter 3 in this guide) is a state program run by the WA State
Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). It provides benefits to workers who are injured on the job
or have a work-related illness. Benefits include medical treatment for work-related conditions and
cash payments that partially replace lost wages. Temporary total disability benefits are paid while the
worker recovers away from work. If the condition has lasting effects after the worker heals, permanent
disability benefits may also be paid. Thus, workers’ compensation provides benefits for both short-
term and long-term disabilities and for partial as well as total disabilities. These benefits cover only
disabilities arising out of and in the course of employment.
Workers are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits from their first day of employment, but SSDI
benefits are paid only to workers who have a longer work history and have long-term disabilities that
prevent them from doing any work, regardless of whether the disability arose on or off the job. The
disability has to be so serious that the worker is not only unable to do his/her previous work but is also
unable to do any other type of work. Sometimes a disabled worker will receive both workers'
compensation and SSDI.
What Are The Medical Requirements To Qualify for SSDI?
"Disability" under Social Security is based on your inability to work. You are considered disabled if:
Your medical condition is on the list that Social Security has for medical conditions they
consider to be serious. If you have Internet access, see
Your medical condition is not on the list, but you cannot do the work you did before; you
cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and your disability has
lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death. Factors taken into
consideration in addition to your medical condition are age, education, past work experience
and any transferable skills you have. The inability to communicate in English is considered an
educational factor that limits an individual’s ability to adjust to other work.
If you are working in 2008 and your earnings average more than $940 a month, you generally are not
considered disabled by Social Security, even if you had to earn this money by selling pencils on a
There are special rules for individuals who are:
Widowed and disabled; www.ssa.gov/dibplan/dqualify9.htm.
Children and disabled; www.ssa.gov/dibplan/dqualify10.htm.
Disabled veterans; www.ssa.gov/woundedwarriors.
Can Members Of My Family Get SSDI Benefits?
Certain members of your family may qualify for benefits of their own based on your work, if you
qualify for SSDI benefits. They include:
Your wife or husband, if s/he is 62 or older.
Your wife or husband at any age if s/he is caring for a child of yours who is younger than age
16 or disabled.
Your unmarried child, including an adopted child, or, in some cases a stepchild or grandchild.
The child must be under age 18 or under age 19 if in elementary or secondary school full-time.
Your unmarried child, age 18 or older, if s/he has a disability that started before age 22. The
child’s disability also must meet the definition of disability for adults.
NOTE: In some situations, a divorced husband or wife may qualify for benefits based on your
earnings if s/he was married to you for at least 10 years, is not currently married, is at least age
62, and is not eligible for an equal or higher benefit on her/his own Social Security record, or
on someone else's Social Security record. The money paid to a divorced spouse does not
reduce your benefit or any benefits due to your current spouse or children.
What Are The Work Requirements To Qualify For SSDI?
In general, to get disability benefits, you must meet two different earnings tests. They are:
1) A "recent work" test based on your age at the time you became disabled. The table below shows
the rules for how much work you need for the recent work test based on your age when your
disability began. The rules in this table are based on the calendar quarter in which you turned or
will turn a certain age. The calendar quarters are:
First Quarter: January 1 through March 31
Second Quarter: April 1 through June 30
Third Quarter: July 1 through September 30
Fourth Quarter: October 1 through December 31
Rules for work needed for the recent work test
If you become disabled... Then you generally need:
In or before the quarter you turn age 24: 1-1/2 years of work during the three-year period ending
with the quarter your disability began.
In the quarter after you turn age 24, but Work during half the time for the period beginning with
before the quarter you turn age 31: the quarter after you turned 21 and ending with the
quarter you became disabled.
Example: If you become disabled in the quarter you
turned age 27, then you would need three years of work
out of the six-year period ending with the quarter you
In the quarter you turn age 31 or later: Work during five years out of the ten-year period
ending with the quarter your disability began.
2) A "duration of work" test to show that you worked long enough under Social Security. The
following table shows examples of how much work you need to meet the duration of work test if
you become disabled at various selected ages. For the duration of work test, your work does not
have to fall within a certain period of time. Certain blind workers have to meet only the duration of
work test. NOTE: This table does not cover all situations.
Examples of work needed for the duration of work
If you become disabled... Then you generally need:
Before age 28 1.5 years of work
Age 30 2 years
Age 34 3 years
Age 38 4 years
Age 42 5 years
Age 44 5.5 years
Age 46 6 years
Age 48 6.5 years
Age 50 7 years
Age 52 7.5 years
Age 54 8 years
Age 56 8.5 years
Age 58 9 years
Age 60 9.5 years
How Much Money Will I Get?
The amount of money (benefit amount) you will receive depends on
your work history and the amount of money you have paid to the Social
Security Administration. You will receive the same monthly benefit that
you would have gotten had you retired at 67 years old. The Social
Security Statement that you receive each year displays your lifetime
earnings and provides an estimate of your disability benefit. It also includes estimates of
retirement and survivors benefits that you or your family may be eligible to receive in the
future. If you do not have your Social Security Statement and would like an estimate of your
disability benefit, you can request one by calling toll- free, 1 (800) 772-1213. If you have
Internet access, you can request one at www.socialsecurity.gov.
When Should I Apply For SSDI?
You should apply for Social Security Disability Insurance as soon as you become disabled if your
disability is expected to last for at least a year. Under the law, your payments cannot begin until you
have been disabled for at least five full months. Payments usually start with your sixth month of
disability. But it generally takes three to five months just to process your Social Security Disability
Insurance application. Having the information listed below at the time you apply will speed up the
application process. But don’t wait to apply. You will have time to get this information to the SSA
after you apply. If there are things you can’t remember or find, the SSA will help you get the
information you need.
You are only allowed to collect up to one year of back benefits from the date you file your application.
If you are working under a union contract, check with your union representative to see what the
contract requires for additional long-term disability. If you are not under a union contract, you will
have to check with you company’s Human Resources department to see what the require ments may
How Do I Apply For SSDI?
You can apply for SSDI by calling your local Social Security Office listed in the government pages of
your phone book, or dialing toll- free, 1 (800) 772-1213, TTY: 1 (800) 325-0778, between 7:00 am
and 7:00 pm Monday — Friday, EST. The Social Security Administration will send you
the papers you need to fill out and sign. If you have Internet access, you can apply
online at Social Security’s website, www.ssa.gov, or in person at your local Social
If you schedule an appointment, a Disability Starter Kit will be mailed to you. The Disability Starter
Kit will help you get ready for your disability claims interview. If you apply online, the Disability
Starter Kit is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability. The disability claims interview lasts
about one hour.
What Information Will I Need?
Social Security will need information about your medical, work, and school history. The information
and papers you will need for your interview are:
Your social security number.
Your birth or baptismal certificate.
Proof of your immigration status, if needed.
A list of your health problems.
Names, addresses and phone numbers of the doctors, caseworkers, hospitals and clin ics
that took care of you and dates of your visits.
Names and dosage of all the medicine you take.
Medical records from your doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics and caseworkers that you
Laboratory and test results.
Workers’ compensation information (if applicable).
Social security numbers for your spouse and/or children.
Checking/savings account numbers if you have any.
A summary of where you worked and the kind of work you did.
A copy of your most recent W-2 Form (Wage and Tax Statement) or, if you were self-
employed, your federal tax return for the past year.
In addition to the basic application for disability benefits, there are other forms you will need to fill
out. One form collects information about your medical condition and how it a ffects your ability to
work. Other forms give doctors, hospitals and other healthcare workers who have treated you
permission to send the Social Security Administration information about your medical condition.
Remember; do not delay applying for benefits if you cannot get all of this information together
quickly. The Social Security Administration will help you get it.
How Do Other Payments Affect My Benefits?
If you are getting other government benefits, the amount of your Social Security disability bene fits
may be affected. For more information, see the following: How Workers’ Compensation And Other
Disability Payments May Affect Your Benefits, www.ssa.gov/pubs/10018.html; Windfall Elimination
Provision, www.ssa.gov/pubs/10045.html; and Government Pension Offset,
www.ssa.gov/pubs/10007.html. You can call the SSA at 1 (800) 772-1213 to request these booklets.
If I Am Receiving Disability Benefits, Can I Go Back To Work?
After you start receiving disability benefits, you may want to try working again. There are special
rules that help you keep your cash benefits and Medicare while you test your ability to work. These
rules are called "work incentives" or "employment support" programs.
For more information about helping you return to work, call the SSA’s toll- free number, 1 (800) 772-
1213 and ask for Working While Disabled — How We Can Help, www.ssa.gov/pubs/10095.html. A
guide to all of the SSA’s employment supports can be found in Red Book, A Summary Guide to
Employment Support for Individuals with Disabilities Under the Social Security Disability Insurance
and Supplemental Security Income Programs, www.ssa.gov/redbook/eng/main.htm.
What is the "Ticket to Work" program?
Under the "Ticket to Work" program, if you are 18-64 years-old and receiving SSDI or SSI, you can
get help with training and other services you need to go to work at no cost to you. You will receive a
"ticket" (voucher) that you can take to a member of the "employment network" to receive services.
This is a voluntary program. You will not lose your benefits if you decide not to use the ticket.
"Ticket to Work" is being managed by Maximus (a private company) that is responsible for approving
and publishing a list of "employment networks." An employment network can be a public program,
like the WA State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, or a non-profit corporation or private
For information about providers in Washington, see www.yourtickettowork.com/endir or call
Maximus toll- free, at 1 (866) 968-7842 or TTY: 1 (866) 833-2967.
ABOUT SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME (SSI)
Supplemental Security Income is designed to help you if you are blind, disabled
or 67 years and older, and have little or no income. Disabled or blind children
also can receive SSI. SSI provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing,
and shelter. It is not based on your previous work history.
What Are The SSI Medical Requirements To Qualify?
To be considered disabled, you must have a physical and/or mental condition that prevents you from
working at a level where you can afford to pay for your basic needs. This condition must have lasted,
or can be expected to last for at least one year.
What Are The Rules For Getting SSI?
Money that will reduce the benefits you receive for SSI is money you receive from other sources, such
as workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, military funds, money from friends or relatives,
and free food, clothing and shelter.
The SSA does not count all of your money when it decides whether you qualify for SSI. For example,
it does not count:
The first $20 a month of money you receive.
The first $65 a month you earn from working a little and half the amount over $65.
Shelter you get from private nonprofit organizations.
Most home energy assistance.
If you are married, the SSA also includes part of your husband's or wife's income and resources when
deciding whether you qualify for SSI. If you are younger than age 18, it includes part of your parents’
income and resources. And, if you are a sponsored non-citizen, it may include your sponsor’s income
If you are a student, some of the wages or scholarships you receive may not count.
If you are disabled but work, Social Security does not count wages you use to pay for items or services
that help you to work. For example, if you need a wheelchair, the wages you use to pay for the
wheelchair do not count as money when the SSA decides whether you qualify for SSI.
If you are disabled or blind, some of the money you use (or save) for training or to buy things you
need to work may not count.
Resources (things you own)
Resources that the SSA counts in deciding whether you qualify for SSI include real estate, bank
accounts, cash, stocks and bonds.
You may be able to get SSI if your resources are worth no more than $2,000. A couple may be able to
get SSI if they have resources worth no more than $3,000. If you own property that you are trying to
sell, you may be able to get SSI while trying to sell it.
The SSA does not count everything you own in deciding whether yo u have too many resources to
qualify for SSI. For example, it does not count:
The home you live in and the land it is on.
Life insurance policies with a value of $1,500 or less.
Your car (usually).
Burial plots for you and members of your immediate family.
Up to $1,500 in burial funds for you and up to $1,500 in burial funds for your husband or
Other Rules You Must Meet To Qualify For SSI
If you live in a city or county rest home, halfway house or other public institution, you usually
cannot get SSI. But there are some exceptions.
If you live in a publicly operated community residence that serves no more than 16 people, you
may get SSI.
If you live in a public institution mainly to attend approved educational or job training to help
you get a job, you may get SSI.
If you live in a public emergency shelter for the homeless, you may get SSI.
If you live in a public or private institution and Medicaid is paying more than half the cost of
your care, you may get a small SSI benefit.
How Do I Apply For SSI?
You should apply for Supplemental Security Income as soon as possible since you can only get SSI
benefits starting from the date of your application. Call your local Social Security Office listed in the
government pages of your phone book or dial toll- free, 1 (800) 772-1213, or TTY: 1 (800) 325-0778,
between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm Monday — Friday, EST. You can also apply online at Social Security’s
website, www.socialsecurity.gov or in person at your local Social Security Office. Parents or
guardians usually can apply for blind or disabled children under age 18. In some cases, other third
parties can apply for children.
You should bring certain items when you apply. Even if you do not have all of the things listed below,
apply anyway. The people in the Social Security office can help you get whatever is needed. Please
Your Social Security card or a record of your Social Security number.
Your birth certificate or other proof of your age.
Information about the home where you live, such as your mortgage or yo ur lease and
Payroll slips, bank books, insurance policies, burial fund records and other information
about your income and the things you own.
The names, addresses and telephone numbers of doctors, hospitals and clinics that you
have been to, if you are applying for SSI because you are disabled or blind.
Proof of U.S. citizenship or eligible non-citizen status.
If you do have a bank account, you should bring your checkbook or other papers that show your bank,
credit union or savings and loan account number so the SSA can have your benefits deposited directly
into your account. Direct deposit protects benefits from loss, theft and mail delay. The money is
always on time and ready to use without making a trip to the bank. It's easier if you have a bank
account, but you don't have to have one to qualify for SSI.
A Note For People Who Are Blind Or Disabled
If you work, there are special rules to help you. You may be able to keep getting SSI payments while
you work. As you earn more money, your SSI payments may be reduced or stopped, but you may be
able to keep your Medicaid coverage.
You also may be able to set aside some money for a work goal or to go to school. In this case, the
money you set aside will not reduce the amount of your SSI.
Blind or disabled people who apply for SSI may get free special services to help them work. These
services may include counseling, job training and help in finding work.
You can get more information by reading Working While Disabled—How We Can Help ,
How Long Will It Take To Get My First SSI Check?
It generally takes three to five months to process your Supplemental Security
Income application. Supplying all the necessary information at the time you apply
will speed up the application processing time. But don’t delay applying because
you do not have all of the needed information. For more information, see
DON'T BE DISCOURAGED IF YOUR CLAIM IS DENIED!
Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income can be a
difficult process. Be prepared for the possibility that your claim will be denied. Social Security
often denies your first disability claim, and then you have to appeal that decision. If your claim
is denied, appeal! Many disabled people become frustrated after they receive a disability
benefits denial notice and do not appeal. This is often a mistake. Nationally, about 75% of all
applicants are denied when they first apply. But many o f these people ultimately receive their
You may want to hire a lawyer who specializes in Social Security disability cases. These attorneys
work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you only pay your attorney’s fee if and when you win —
you will not have any out-of-pocket expenses before then.
A SUMMARY OF YOUR RIGHTS
1) There is no charge to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security
2) If you do not speak English and need an interpreter, the Social Security Administration must
provide one free of charge.
3) You have the right to receive help from the Social Security Administration. Your intake worker
will help you complete the application forms and can help you obtain the documents you need. If
more medical information is needed, Social Security can pay for a doctor to examine you.
4) You have the right to examine and copy your Social Security file upon request. You may also
review and copy the laws, regulations, and policies Social Security used in deciding your case.
5) You have the right to receive a notice. If Social Security denies your application, they must tell
you and your representative, if you have one, in writing. This notice must explain your appeal
6) You have the right to appeal. If you are denied benefits, you have 60 days from the date of the
denial notice to appeal, or your application will be closed and you might lose your right to receive
benefits. You never lose the right to apply again, but it would be "starting from scratch."
7) You have the right to a representative. You have the right to hire a lawyer to represent you in your
appeal. If you want to hire a lawyer, do so AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
WHERE TO GO FOR HELP
How Do I Find A Lawyer?
There are lawyers who specialize in disability insurance claims. Check your local phone book's yellow pages.
Also, please see the legal services listed at the end of Chapters 1, 5, 9, or 10 in this guide.
Washington Information Network: Dial 2-1-1
If you need social services quickly, such as help with the rent; therapy and support groups; food; clothing;
donations; transportation; or emergency shelter, you may be able to find them by telephoning 2-1-1. You can
call this number from anywhere in Washington. The information and referral specialist who answers the phone
will try to help you find the services you need in your community. If dialing 2-1-1 doesn't work, call toll-free,
1 (877) 211-WASH (9274). Interpreter services are available. If you have Internet access, you can use their
website to find services: www.resourcehouse.com/en/WA/cgi-bin/location.asp.
WA Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)
If you are eligible to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you may be eligible to receive other
financial help such as food stamps while your Social Security application is processed. Contact your local
DSHS office by phone (they are listed in the phone book), in person or on the Internet at www.dshs.wa.gov for
DSHS Emergency Cash Assistance programs: If your family has an emergency and you need a one-time cash
payment for housing; transportation; medical bills; employment; or childcare, you may be eligible for the
Diversion program. For more information and to get an application, call DSHS Constituent Services toll-free, at
1 (800) 737-0617. Interpretation services are available. If you have Internet access, the website for the
Diversion program is https://fortress.wa.gov/dshs/f2ws03esaapps/onlinecso/diversion.asp. The application for
benefits is available in many languages, including Spanish.
If you need one-time cash assistance to pay for housing or utilities, you may qualify for the Additional
Requirements for Emergent Needs (AREN) program. To qualify, you must meet ALL of the requirements listed
Be eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); State Family Assistance (SFA);
or Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA).
Have an emergency housing or utility need.
Have a good reason why you don't have the money to pay for your housing or utility costs.
A DSHS staff member can tell you more about this program. You can call DSHS Constituent Services toll-free,
at 1 (800) 737-0617. If you have Internet access, the website explaining ARENS is