How To Qualify For Disability Benefits By State

Social Security disability benefits are available for those who are unable to work due to a disabling condition. These benefits can be used to help pay for daily living needs, like rent, utilities, groceries, medical expenses, and more. 

These disability benefits are a national program, allowing those in any U.S. state to apply for financial assistance.

Understanding the Definition of Disability

The SSA defines disability as a condition that keeps you from engaging in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) because it is expected to result in death or has lasted or will last, for a continuous 12-month period (or more). If you earn less than the SGA ($1,550/month) then the SSA may find that you meet their definition of disability, approving you for disability benefits.

What Conditions Qualify For Disability?

The SSA has created a list of over 200 conditions that can qualify for disability benefits. This list, known as the Blue Book, is broken into 14 sections, grouping like conditions in each one. Conditions that qualify are broken down into the following sections:

  1. Musculoskeletal Disorders
  2. Special Senses and Speech
  3. Respiratory Disorders
  4. Cardiovascular System
  5. Digestive Disorders
  6. Genitourinary Disorders
  7. Hematological Disorders
  8. Skin Disorders
  9. Endocrine Disorders
  10. Congenial Disorders that Affect Multiple Body Systems
  11. Neurological Disorders
  12. Mental Disorders
  13. Cancer (Malignant Neoplastic Diseases)
  14. Immune System Disorders

What Types of Benefits Are Available?

The SSA provides two types of disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 

SSDI is available to those ages 18-65 who were once able to work, but no longer can due to a disabling condition. To qualify for SSDI, you must be unable to work for at least 12 months as well as have earned enough work credits (earned from paying taxes into Social Security) while you were working. Typically, if you worked 5 of the last 10 years you will have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI.

SSI is for both children and adults who have little to no income or resources and have a disabling condition. Unlike SSDI, you do not need to have worked to qualify. Instead, SSI is based on income and assets. Those who have under $2,000 in income and assets (or $3,000 if married) may be eligible for SSI.

Along with financial aid from SSDI and SSI, recipients have access to other benefits. Medicare is available to those over 65 who are receiving SSDI. Those on SSI automatically qualify for Medicaid. Both Medicare and Medicaid help provide medical coverage to those with a disabling condition. 

Many states may also have their own disability benefits available as well. Learn more about how to qualify for disability in your state through our guides below:

Gathering Documentation Required for Disability Applications

One of the leading reasons for denied disability applications is a lack of medical evidence and documentation. You will need to provide evidence that supports that your condition meets a Blue Book listing and will keep you from working. To determine what medical evidence you need, you can reference the Blue Book listing for your condition. Typically, evidence like test results, doctors' notes, x-rays, MRIs, treatment plans, and prescriptions are needed. 

Additionally, when you apply you will need to provide the following documentation to the SSA:

  • Birth certificate 
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if needed
  • U.S. military discharge papers (if you had military service before 1968)
  • W-2 forms or self-employment tax returns for the prior year
  • Completed Adult Disability Report
  • Other proof of other benefits you received (such as award letters, pay stubs, settlement agreements, etc.)

To make sure you have all the documentation and information needed to apply, you can reference the Adult Disability Starter Kit provided by the SSA.

How To Find A Disability Lawyer

Those working with a disability lawyer are three times more likely to get approved for benefits. There are a few different ways you can find a disability lawyer. First, talk to family and friends who have worked with an SSD attorney to get a referral. You can also check online directories to see attorneys taking cases near you and read reviews from their past clients. 

Additionally, you can fill out the Free Case Evaluation on this page to get connected with an independent participating attorney who subscribes to the website and helps those applying for disability near you!

Find Out If I Qualify for Benefits!