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Qualifying for Social Security Benefits

If you or someone you love is unable to work due to an illness or life-long disability, you might be eligible for assistance. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers resources for people who are unable to earn a living wage due to a disability. If your disability will last for at least a year or is terminal, you may be eligible.

Programs Available for Those with Disabilities

There are two forms of disability offered by the SSA. Medical qualifications for both are exactly the same, but each program has its own technical eligibility criteria.

The first type of benefits is known as Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI. These benefits are for adults who have worked throughout life and paid Social Security taxes. Most SSDI recipients have been diagnosed with a new illness like severe depression or cancer, or have experienced a physical injury like an amputation or spinal cord injury.

The second form of benefits is Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. These benefits are available for people of all ages, and there is no work history requirement. SSI benefits are for the most needy, so there are strict financial limits. To qualify for SSI, you cannot have more than $2,000 in saved income or assets, or more than $3,000 in assets if you’re married. Assets include a second home or second car, stocks, bonds, life insurance over $1,500, and other high-value items. Most people who receive SSI have an intellectual disability or a lifelong physical impairment.

Qualifying for Disability Benefits

To qualify for SSDI or SSI, you’ll need to have a condition considered “disabling” by the SSA. The SSA has its own medical guide outlining what conditions could qualify online. This resource, known as the Blue Book, lists exactly what test results or symptoms you’ll need to qualify with your diagnosis.

Everyone will qualify differently via the Blue Book. For example, people diagnosed with Trisomy 21 or Translocation Down syndrome will automatically qualify with a diagnosis. Someone with a spinal cord injury, on the other hand, will need to prove that he or she is unable to “ambulate effectively.” This means that at least one of the following is true:

  1. You cannot walk without use of a wheelchair or walker
  2. You cannot balance alone without standing
  3. You cannot rise from a seated position without assistance

Because the entire Blue Book is available online, you can review it with your doctor to determine where you might qualify.

Starting Your Application

Maine has one of the highest Social Security disability approval rates in the country. If you’re applying for SSDI benefits, you can complete the entire process online. SSI applicants or families applying on behalf of someone with SSI can start the process online, but will need to complete the application at their local SSA office. The Bangor, ME SSA office can be found here:

202 Harlow St.
Bangor, ME 04401

Be sure to schedule an appointment before applying in person. To do so, call the Bangor SSA office toll-free at 1-877-1448 or 1-800-325-0778 TTY.

This article was written by the Outreach Team at Disability Benefits Help. They provide information about disability benefits and the application process. To learn more, please visit their website at http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/ or by contacting them at help@ssd-help.org.