Understanding SSi/SSDI

What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? 

SSI is a federal program that provides cash benefits to individuals who are age 65 or older, blind, or have a disability. To receive SSI benefits under the disability category means you do not have the ability work because of a mental or physical disability that has lasted or is expected to last 12 months or end in death.. 

Is there a difference in applying for SSI as a child and SSI as an adult?

Yes. When an application for SSI benefits is received for a child, the income of the child's parents are considered in determining if there is a financial need for benefits, in addition to other resources. Once the individual reaches the age of 18, only the resources and income of the person are considered in determining eligibility for benefits. 

How can I apply for benefits?

Individuals under the age of 18 should apply in person at their nearest Social Security Administration building. Click this link to read about benefits available to children with disabilities.

An online benefits application is available for individuals who are:

  • Age 18 or older;
  • Not currently receiving benefits on their own Social Security record;
  • Unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death; and
  • Have not been denied disability benefits in the last 60 days.                  *Information received from SSA.Gov

What items will I need in order to submit my application? 

  • Medical records
  • Proof of any other disability payment sources
  • Dates of marriage(s) and/or divorce(s)
  • Checking account information for direct deposit
  • Medical release form

You may print out this checklist to ensure you have all materials needed for your appointment.

How will Social Security determine if I am eligible for benefits?

To be eligible for SSI you must prove that you meet the criteria for disability. In addition, you must demonstrate a financial need for the benefits. Social Security will consider the income of parents for child applicants.

How will Social Security determine if I meet the definition of "disabled"?

The Social Security Administration sends your information to a state agency that makes disability determinations. That information is evaluated by medical and vocational experts who will contact your medical providers and locations you have received treatment in order to determine if you meet the criteria for disability.

When will I know if I am approved or denied?

In general, it can take between 3-6 months to receive notification of approval or denial.

What is the appeals process if I am denied?

You have the right to appeal a decision made by the SSA within 60 days of the decision being made. The appeal must be in writing and is linked here.

There are several levels of appeals, including:

  • Reconsideration--this is a complete review of your case by an individual who did not participate in your first submission.
  • Hearing by an administrative law judge--this happens after the reconsideration is not agreed upon. The law judge, who had no part in your previous submission, will hear your appeal in person. These hearings are generally held within 75 miles of your home.
  • Review by appeals council--this is the next step after the administrative hearing. The appeals council may determine your case decision on their own or refer it to another administrative law judge.
  • Federal court review--the final step is to file a federal lawsuit. Detailed information would be provided in writing by the federal district court.

For more detailed information, download the appeals process kit here.

What are "Continuing Disability Reviews"?

Every few years, SSA will review your case to ensure you continue to meet eligibility guidelines. For more information on reviews, click here.

Where is my local office?

Click here to find the office closest to you.