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I have never worked. Will this stop me from getting disability?

The Federal Government provides monthly cash assistance through two disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Social Security Disability Insurance provides disability payments to employees who have a severe health condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months and does not allow the employee to continue to perform work at a “substantial level.”

In addition to the medical criteria established by the Social Security Administration (SSA), employees must have worked and paid payroll taxes to be considered “insured” by the SSA. The number of work credits which must be accumulated by disabled workers to qualify for SSDI has been determined by the Social Security Administration and can vary based on claimant's age when they become disabled. Most employees will need 20-40 work credits to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance.

What if you have not worked and you have not accumulated enough work credits for SSDI? Does this make you ineligible for SSDI benefits? Yes, employees who have not worked or paid enough in employment taxes will be denied SSDI benefits, regardless of the severity of their current mental or physical health condition.

I have not worked, what are my disability options?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

If you have not worked your only option will be to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Supplemental Security Income is provided to the blind, disabled or aged (65 years or older who are not “insured” but who need cash assistance to meet their minimum monthly expenses.

This sounds great, but unfortunately many people will not qualify for SSI because it is a “needs based” program and is only provided to claimants who have VERY limited income and resources and who meet additional non-economic considerations.

What do I do if I do not qualify for SSI or SSDI?

Unfortunately, if you do not qualify for SSDI or SSI you have limited options. Some claimants who lack only a few work credits for SSDI may attempt to return to work for a short time to acquire more work credits. Workers can receive one credit for each $1,120 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits per year (in 2011). So, for example, if you only lack four credits, if you make enough money, you might only have to work another year.

What if you cannot work? Unfortunately, you may have to wait until your resource and income limits are below the allowable limits. To get SSI, your countable resources must not be worth more than $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple. However, according to the SSA, you may be able to get conditional payments if you agree to sell some of your countable resources. Contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 or a disability lawyer for more information if you are considering this option.