How to Qualify for Supplemental Security Income


In some cases, it’s possible to receive Social Security income if you’ve never worked. If you’re disabled, you may qualify for Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Social Security requires a medical confirmation of disability and, in order to be considered a disabled person, a physical or mental condition must void your ability to work. Your disability must be expected to last for at least a year and/or result in death.

If you have a serious disability, haven’t worked in the past and/or paid Social Security taxes over at least 10 years of work history, SSI is a possibility for you. If you worked in the past because your income was too low or you held jobs on a sporadic or infrequent basis, you might not have earned sufficient Social Security credits. Social Security credits are calculated on reported income and are used to determine an individual’s eligibility for disability, retirement, or survivor benefits in the United States. Fortunately, if you’re disabled and any of these conditions apply to you, it’s still possible for you to qualify for SSI.

Requesting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from Social Security Administration

SSI is a needs-based program.  Your income and assets must meet Social Security Administration’s parameters. Before you initiate the SSI application, do your homework. If you’re very sick, it may be worthwhile to consult with a Social Security lawyer. An experienced legal ally can help you to prepare the initial application and check it for errors. Even small errors can delay the SSI approval process. According to SSA statistics, many people aren’t approved for benefits on their first try.

SSI Qualification and Approval for SSI Benefits

You must present medical records that show you’re disabled. It’s not enough to tell Social Security that you’re very sick. Physicians, clinics, therapists, hospitals, and public health professionals may be enlisted to provide the supporting information needed by Social Security to approve SSI benefits. If you haven’t seen a physician in several months or longer, make an appointment to allow him or her to update your disability and medical prognosis.

Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is available for individuals who are 65 and older, disabled, or blind with little to no income and few assets. Even if you’ve never held a job or paid Social Security taxes, it’s possible to receive this assistance if you qualify. Depending upon the severity of your physical or mental disability or condition, Social Security Administration approves or declines SSI benefits.

SSI and Mental Disabilities

SSA must determine that you can’t engage in “substantial gainful activity” because of your physical or mental disability or condition. Your impairment must prevent or severely limit the ability to work and earn money. Your doctor must project that the condition will last a minimum or 12 months. Many severe conditions and disabilities are projected to culminate in death.

Psychological and mental conditions fall into one of nine categories according to SSA, including:

  • An Organic Condition or Disorder in the brain: This type of mental disability results in loss of normal mental function. Individuals may lose the ability to understand where they are (e.g., time or place), show memory impairment, mood changes, or present with an unexplained intelligence quotient (IQ) reduction. They individual may be unable to concentrate or participate in usual daily functions and activities.
  • An Autistic Condition or developmental disorder can result in an individual’s inability to interact with others. He or she may perform repetitive actions and show problems in verbal/non-verbal communications.
  • A Personality Condition may be present if the individual demonstrates mood swings, aggression, or hostility in social situations. The person suffering with the disability may be unable to participate in normal daily life or social situations.
  • A Mentally Retardation Condition may be resent if the individual demonstrates lower than average intellectual ability before age 22. The individual may be incapable of performing simple daily grooming tasks, including dressing or toileting. He or she may not understand instructions of a teacher or caregiver or might have diminished or absent verbal skills.
  • An Anxiety-Based Condition, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCDC) may cause extreme anxiety. The individual may demonstrate panic attacks, terror, or apprehension in normal daily life. He or she may have limited ability to participate in typical social interactions.
  • A Somatoform Condition may have a physiological or organic basis (an M.D. or D.O. may not identify a physical medical cause of the disorder). The individual may have vision, speech/hearing problems and disturbances for years without the identification of physical disease or disorder.
  • An Affective Condition, such as manic-depressive behavior, can affect the individual’s ability to work or interact with others in social and work situations. He or she may lose interest in normal daily life, have sleep problems, hallucinations, or suicidal tendencies.
  • A Substance Addiction Disorder can result in serious physical problems like liver or pancreas damage. Over time, substance abuse can also result in mental disorders as well.
  • A Psychotic Condition may result from substance addiction or from an unknown cause. The individual may suffer from hallucinations or delusions. He or she may say illogical things or become incoherent. SSA may grant SSI benefits to individuals suffering from a psychotic condition (and presenting these traits) for at least a year or more.

SSI and Physical Disabilities and Conditions

Serious physical conditions are more easily defined and reviewed by SSA. If you’re suffering from cancer or multiple sclerosis, ask your doctor(s) to provide original signed copies of reports to SSA.

It’s not necessary for your doctor to write a letter on your behalf to Social Security. It is important, however, that you receive medical notes and records from your doctor’s office, hospital, or other treatment facility on a timely basis.

Whether you’re applying for SSI for a physical or mental disability, make sure to send Social Security updated records after initiating the application process. It can take SSA months or years to approve your request, so it’s important to provide updated information about your condition after medical appointments.