How to Collect Disability If You Have Never Held a Job Before

When most people think of social security disability, they’re thinking of Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. That’s the federal program based on tax revenue from income taxes – also called work credits. This article explains the difference between SSDI and Supplement Security Income (SSI) which does not require people to pay into it via regular payroll.

Social Security Disability (SSDI)

SSDI works like an insurance program: generally speaking, workers who have paid social security taxes via their regular wages are covered by the program if they can prove they were disabled within five years of their last day worked. In the SSDI context, “disabled” means you have a “physical or mental condition that keeps you from working and is expected to last at least a year or to result in death.”

But there is a separate, distinct disability program for people with little to no work experience.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Social Security has another disability program: Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is not based on work credits, but is instead a federal program, funded by general tax revenue, designed to help disabled people with little or no income. If you have a work history, you may be eligible for both SSI and SSDI benefits; if you have never held a job, you may still be eligible for SSI benefits.

Wisconsin citizens who qualify for federal SSI may also quality for state SSI. Wisconsin SSI recipients may also qualify for programs such as Medical Assistance, FoodShare, homemaker and chore services, long-term support and care, rehabilitation services and protective services.

Eligibility for a Supplement Security Income (SSI) Claim

To be eligible for SSI, you need to meet the medical criteria and have assets below a set limit.

  1. Medical Criteria

If you are between 18 and 65, you can prove you are disabled by showing that you:

• Have a diagnosable physical or mental impairment, that
• Prevents you from being able to perform any job full-time, and
• Can be expected to last at least one year or result in death.

If you are under 18, the criteria is largely the same. You can prove you are disabled by showing you:

• Have a diagnosable physical or mental impairment, that
• Results in marked and severe functional limitations, and
• Can be expected to last at least one year or result in death.

2. Financial Assets Criteria

SSI is a resource-based program, which means your resources have to stay under a certain limit to qualify. Resources include cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, vehicles, personal property, life insurance, and land assets. To qualify for SSI, the value of your resources has to be under $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple.

However, not all resources are counted against you. Among other assets, Social Security does not count:
• The home you live in
• The car you drive
• Household goods and personal effects
• Burial plots and funds
• Life insurance policies with a combined value of $1,500 or less
• Grants, scholarships, or gifts to pay educational expenses within nine months of receipt

This list is not exhaustive. A social security disability attorney can help you determine if you are eligible for SSI.

Find Out if You are Eligible for SSI and/or SSDI

To reiterate, you need not have an employment history to be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). All you must do is pass the above tests. However, you may be eligible for both SSI and SSDI if you have paid into the SSDI program through regular work payroll.

If you or your loved ones become disabled and have limited financial resources, contact our office for a free consultation.

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