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Disability Benefits

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How to Apply for Disability Benefits

If you feel that you are no longer able to work because of physical or mental reasons, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability payments, or for Medi-Cal. You may apply for SSDI or SSI at any Social Security office, or for Medi-Cal at your local welfare department.

If you meet the non-medical criteria defined by those agencies, your application for benefits will be sent to the Disability Determination Service Division (DDSD) in the California Department of Social Services. DDSD will obtain your medical and other records to assess the severity of your impairments and the impact of them on your ability to engage in substantial gainful work activity.

For Whom

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR SSDI

You may qualify for SSDI benefits if you meet both the earnings and disability requirements outlined below.

The Disability Requirement

To be considered disabled, you must be unable to perform any "substantial" work due to a physical or mental condition which has lasted or can be expected to last for at least a year, or can be expected to result in death. Generally, monthly earnings of $780 or more are considered substantial. Your impairment must be severe enough to prevent you from working not only in your usual job but in any other occupation considering your age, education, training, and work experience.

This is a strict definition of disability. Unlike many private pension funds or even other government disability programs, SSDI is not intended for a temporary condition.

The Earnings Requirement

Eligibility is based on being "insured" through your tax contributions to the Social Security trust fund. In 2005 you will receive one Social Security credit for each $920 you earned (up to the maximum of four credits per year). The number of credits required to be eligible for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled.

  • Before age 24, you must have earned six credits during a 3 year period (12 quarters).
  • Between ages 24-30, you must have earned credits for half of the calendar quarters in the period beginning after age 21 and the time you became disabled.
  • After age 31, you must have earned credits for work in 5 years (20 calendar quarters) during a 10 year (40-quarter period) ending in or after the quarter in which you became disabled.

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR SSI

The disability requirement for SSI is the same as for SSDI. However, since SSI is for people who have little or no resources and income, the SSDI earnings requirement does not apply. For further information on SSI (or SSDI) payments and eligibility requirements, you can click here to go to the Social Security Administration homepage.

Children (under age 18): Under SSI, a child is considered disabled if the child's impairment(s) meet or equal Social Security's listed medical standards.

Where to get help:

If you think you are eligible for SSDI or SSI, call toll-free 1-800-772-1213, or contact your local Social Security office. Check your telephone book under Government Pages for listings.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Over 122,000 claims approved in 2004