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A person's age determines how Social Security looks at their disability.
Someone who is 18 or older may be considered 'disabled' if:
Click the box below for more details on what counts as a disability.
If your child is 17 or younger, then Social Security may consider them 'disabled' if:
An impairment is something about one's body or mind that is not working the way it should.
The impairment must be medically determinable. This means that it must be diagnosed by a doctor or other professional. In other words, Social Security doesn't just take your word for it. They'll ask for paperwork from your doctor.
The impairment must cause marked and severe functional limitations. This means it affects your child's ability to reach developmental milestones, or to do age-appropriate activities like walking, talking, or playing.
More more detail, click on the links below to pages from the Social Security website.
Note: any time you click a link to another website in this Guide, it will open in a new tab on your computer, tablet or mobile phone.
- Medical evidence and documentation
- A full list of conditions that generally qualify someone as disabled
- A list of less common conditions called that usually automatically qualify someone for SSI(Compassionate Allowance Conditions)
- More details about disability evaluation under Social Security
Sources: Social Security, Jackins (2010).
We will tell you how to apply for SSI later in the Guide. For now, let's take a closer look at what happens behind the scenes when you apply.
- First, you submit an SSI application to your local Social Security field office. This has 2 parts, a disability form (you can do this online) and the SSI form. You can turn in the SSI form in person, by telephone, or by mail.
- After you submit the application, the field office checks non-medical eligibility. They may ask questions about your family member's age, employment, marital status, citizenship, income, resources, and living arrangements.
- The field office then sends the case to one of the state's Disability Determination Services (DDS) offices in Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and New Orleans. This DDS office looks at all of the medical records to see if your family member meets the guidelines for being disabled or blind. If the office can't decide, they'll make a plan to get more information from your doctor. This may involve more tests, and is called a Consultative Exam(CE).
- After making a decision about the disability, the DDS office returns the case to the field office. The field office will tell you the decision.
- If the DDS decides that your family member is disabled, Social Security will finish the paperwork, calculate the benefit amount, and start sending you the monthly checks.
- If the office finds that your family member is not disabled, they keep your files in the field office in case you decide to appeal. You can walk through How to Appeal an SSI Denial later in this Guide.
Source: Social Security
Social Security has something they call the sequential evaluation process. They follow certain steps in a certain order to evaluate if someone's disability qualifies for SSI or SSDI.*
[*While this Exceptional Lives Guide focuses on SSI, Social Security will also decide if your family member qualifies for SSDI - Social Security Disability Income - at the same time.]
For adults applying for SSI, this is a five-step process where they review these things:
- Their current job
- How severe their impairment(s) are
- If their impairment(s) meet the guidelines for disabilities
- What kind of work they can do now (and in the past), and
- Their ability to do work now, based on age, education, and work experience.
If the family member is found not disabled at any point, the review stops.
Source: Social Security
Does Your Family Member Meet The Eligibility Requirements?
- My Family Member Meets The Eligibility Requirements Is Married
- My Family Member Meets The Eligibility Requirements Is Unmarried
- My Family Member Doesn't Meet The Eligibility Requirements
Source: Social Security.