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SSDI - Do I have to be disabled to qualify?

Not sick can  I get SSA benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers a variety of SSA benefits, and it can be difficult to determine the requirements for each program. Recently, a user on our disability forum ask, “Do I have to be disabled to get SSA Benefits?” This blog will address this question and when you may qualify for SSA benefits offered by the Social Security Administration if you are not disabled.

Social Security Administration SSA benefits for the Retired

Most of us are most familiar with Social Security Administration retirement benefits. These benefits are offered to workers who have paid employment taxes, earned work credits and who retire at a specified age. The age claimants are allowed to retire has been gradually raised over the years, but no matter what your full retirement age (also called "normal retirement age"), you may start receiving benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. Anyone born after 1960 will reach their full retirement age at age 67.

Keep in mind, if you retire prior to your full retirement age your benefits are reduced a fraction of a percent for each month before your full retirement age.

Now, to receive SSA retirement benefit you do not have to be disabled. This differs from other disability programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI benefits are offered to applicants who are disabled with a serious health condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months and which does not allow them to perform substantial gainful activity. Like SSA retirement benefits, SSDI applicants must also have worked and paid employment taxes, earning enough work credits to be “insured” for SSDI benefits.

For SSDI benefits you must be disabled. If you are not disabled than the SSA would automatically deny your disability claim without pulling your medical records.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is offered to applicants who are aged (65 years of age), blind or disabled and who are unable to work.  Now SSI does not depend on your work history and is offered to claimants who do not have sufficient work history to be considered insured.

For SSI it could be possible that you could be an 85 year old who may not have a severe health condition but who has lost the functional ability to complete a 40 hour work week or eight hour work day. For example, my grandmother was a homemaker and lived to be ninety-four years old. Assuming she did not qualify for any type of survivor benefits she may have been eligible for SSI after the age of 65, even if she was not sick with a severe health condition. The SSA would simply need evidence that she did not have the residual capacity to work.

So to answer the claimant’s question, to receive SSDI benefits you will have to be severely disabled and not be able to work, but for SSI and SSA retirement benefits it is possible to receive benefits without a disability.
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