The disabilities qualify for SSI disability benefits are the same as those that qualify for regular Social Security Disability (SSD). The difference in the two programs involves the income, asset, and work history requirements.
SSI, a means-tested benefit program, requires you to show a financial need, demonstrated by income and assets that fall below certain thresholds. SSDI, an insurance program, requires you to have paid a sufficient amount into the system via payroll taxes.
What Disabilities Qualify for SSI Benefits
To qualify for Supplemental Security income (SSI) on a medical basis, you must have a condition or impairment that meets the Social Security Administration’s definition of a disability. The SSA considers disability to be any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that renders you incapable of engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA). Further, the condition must have persisted or be expected to last for at least 12 months or result in your death.
The definition differs slightly for children under 18 years old. The SSA defines disability in children as marked physical or mental limitations caused by a medically determinable condition. A child’s medical condition also must be expected to persist for 12 months or result in death to qualify as a disability in the eyes of the SSA.
Partial vs. Full Disability Designations
Whether you are applying for SSI or SSDI, the SSA, unlike many other organizations such as the VA, does not recognize partial disabilities. There is no sliding scale of benefits based on the severity of your condition. Either you meet the SSA’s definition and qualify as disabled, or you do not meet the definition and fail to qualify as disabled.
Specific Conditions for Disabilities Qualify for SSI Disability Benefits
Yes, the SSA has a master list of medical conditions that automatically qualify for SSI benefits. This list, called the Blue Book, lists each state that is eligible for benefits, followed by a list of criteria that an applicant must meet to receive SSI. If an applicant has been diagnosed with a condition in the Blue Book but fails to meet all requirements listed under that condition, the applicant does not qualify for SSI based on the listing.
Most applicants find it difficult to satisfy the criteria of a Blue Book listing, and in fact, only a small percentage of people who get approved for SSI do so via the Blue Book. Most receive benefits through the alternative route, which is to apply for and be granted a medical-vocational allowance.
The SSA grants medical-vocational allowances to applicants who fail to meet a Blue Book listing but can demonstrate in other ways that their condition keeps them from substantial gainful activity.
The evidence you need to be granted a medical-vocational allowance includes:
- Medical records
- Employment history going back 15 years
- List of your job skills
- Educational attainments
Based on your medical records, the SSA first looks to see if you can return to the job you had before you got injured or became ill. If it determines you cannot go back to that position, it reviews your previous employment, going back as far as 15 years. If there is a job you did in the past that you are still qualified to do and that the SSA believes you can perform in spite of your condition, it might deny your application because you are capable of working for a living.
Example of Work History Affecting SSI Disability Benefits
For instance, if you were forced to stop working as a firefighter because of a physical disability, but upon reviewing your employment history the SSA discovers that you worked for the fire department as a dispatcher a decade ago while on the waiting list for a firefighting position, it might require you to seek employment in that field. The SSA might rule that a physical disability such as a back injury does not prevent you from working at a desk and operating a computer, phone, and radio in a dispatch job.
To make things even more challenging, the SSA can deny you benefits if it thinks a job exists that you are capable of performing based on your education and training, also if you have never been in that line of work in the past.
Call the Disability Advantage Group for a Free Case Evaluation Before Filing for SSI
At the Disability Advantage Group, our attorneys understand the complexities of proving to the SSA that you are deserving of benefits. We have helped many clients apply for and win benefits, and we can present your case to the SSA in the best light possible. To schedule a free case evaluation to have all your questions answered, call our office at 865-566-0800.