Social Security

Social Security has two different programs that pay benefits to you and certain family members if you are found to have a disability. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program pays benefits if you have worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to those who have limited income and resources.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI is an insurance program for disabled or blind people who have worked and paid FICA taxes for a certain amount of time, generally ten years. SSDI pays a monthly benefit amount, which depends on your work history. Payments begin after a 5-month waiting period from the time of disability onset. SSDI is administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Eligibility
SSA determines eligibility for SSDI and any other program administered by their office. SSA will consider the extent of your disability, your previous work history, your current earnings and your age in determining whether you qualify for benefits. SSA must also find that your medical condition has lasted or is expected to last at least one year, or be expected to result in your death.

SSA has a strict definition of disability. A five-step process is followed to determine eligibility. The process is listed below:

  1. Are you working? If you are and your earnings are considered substantial, you will generally not be considered disabled. In 2016, substantial work means earnings of more than $1,130 per month.
  2. Is your medical condition severe? Your impairment must interfere with your basic work–related activities, such as walking, sitting and remembering, for your claim to be considered.
  3. Is your condition found in the listing of disabling impairments? SSA maintains a list of impairments that are so severe they automatically qualify you for disability benefits. An HIV/AIDS diagnosis alone is not enough to meet a listing. If your condition does not meet a listing, SSA will have to decide if your condition is of equal severity to an impairment on the list. If it is, your claim will be approved. If it is not, SSA will go on to the next step.
  4. Can you do the work you did previously? At this point, SSA will determine if you are able to do the work you did before. If your condition does not stop you from doing the work you previously performed, SSA will decide that you are not disabled. If SSA decides you are not able to do the work you performed previously, they move on to the next step.
  5. Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do the work you performed previously, SSA will determine if you can do any other type of work. If SSA determines that you could do any other type of work, your claim will be denied. If they determine you are unable to do any other work your claim will be approved.

How to apply
When applying for SSDI or any other program administered by SSA, SSA will determine which programs you qualify for. If you are not eligible for SSDI, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or retirement benefits. To apply, call SSA: (800) 772-1213 or apply online: www.ssa.gov. If you call SSA to apply you can make an appointment to complete the application over the phone or in person at a SSA office. If you would like assistance applying for SSDI, contact the Legal Department at the MN AIDS Project: (612) 373-9177.

The social security application process is generally not fast. It can take several months to receive a determination from SSA. Having certain documents and information when you apply will help shorten the process, although you don't have to have all of the information at the time of application. Below is a general list of information that SSA will need:

  • Social Security number
  • Birth Certificate
  • Copy of current pay stubs
  • List of dependents
  • Proof of Worker's Compensation
  • Name, address, phone number of all health care providers
  • Summary of where you worked in the past 15 years and the kind of work you did

FAQs

How much will I get? 
SSDI benefit amounts are based on your lifetime average earnings. This amount is adjusted each year to account for cost-of-living changes. The amount you receive can be reduced if you receive Worker's Compensation payments or public disability benefits (certain state and civil service disability benefits). Other income (not from work) does not affect your payment amount.

If you receive only a small SSDI benefit and you don't have a large amount of savings or other assets/resources, you may be eligible for some Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in addition to your SSDI benefit.

Can I work?
You can return to work while receiving SSDI benefits. Refer to the “Return to Work” section of this guide for more information.

Will SSA review my disability?
If SSA determined that your condition is expected to improve they will review your case around the date that they expect your disability to improve. In general, if medical improvement is possible, SSA will review your case every three years. If medical improvement is not expected, your case will be reviewed about every 6 years.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is an assistance program available for disabled, aged or blind people with limited income and resources. SSI pays a monthly amount to qualified people. The maximum monthly payment in 2016 is $733 for an individual and $1,100 for a couple. This is called the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR).

Eligibility
The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines eligibility for SSI. In order to qualify, you must have limited income and resources. Once that is determined SSA will consider the extent of your disability. SSA must also find that your medical condition has lasted or is expected to last at least one year, or be expected to result in your death.

SSA has a strict definition of disability. A five–step process is followed to determine eligibility. The process is listed below:

  1. Are you working? If you are and your earnings are considered substantial, you will generally not be considered disabled. In 2016, substantial work means earnings of more than $1,130 or more a month.
  2. Is your medical condition severe? Your impairment must interfere with your basic work–related activities, such as walking, sitting and remembering, for your claim to be considered.
  3. Is your condition found in the listing of disabling impairments? SSA maintains list of impairments that are so severe that they automatically mean you are disabled. An HIV/AIDS diagnosis alone is not enough to meet a listing. If your condition does not meet a listing, SSA will have to decide if your condition is of equal severity to an impairment on the list. If it is, your claim will be approved. If it is not, SSA will go on to the next step.
  4. Can you do the work you did previously? At this point, SSA will determine if you are able to do the work you did before. If your condition does not stop you from doing the work you did before SSA will decide that you are not disabled. If SSA decides you are not able to do the work you previously they move on to the next step.
  5. Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do the work you did previously, SSA will determine if you can do any other type of work. If SSA determines that you could do any other type of work, your claim will be denied. If they determine you are unable to do any other work your claim will be approved.

How to apply
Minnesota AIDS Project’s Legal Department provides consultations and assistance with the Social Security disability benefits application process. For more information about this process, please visit the Social Security Disability section of this website, or call (612) 373-9177. Please insert hyperlink to direct to this page where highlighted.

You may also apply for benefits by calling SSA: (800) 772-1213 or applying online: www.ssa.gov. If you call SSA to apply you can make an appointment to complete the application over the phone or in person at a SSA office. When applying for SSDI or any other program administered by SSA, SSA will determine which programs you qualify for. If you are not eligible for SSDI, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or retirement benefits.

The application process is not generally fast. It can take several months to receive a determination from SSA. Having certain documents and information when you apply will help shorten the process, although you don't have to have all of the information at the time of application. Below is a general list of information that SSA will need:

  • Social Security number
  • Birth Certificate
  • Copy of current pay stubs
  • List of dependents
  • Proof of Worker's Compensation
  • Name, address, phone number of all health care providers
  • Summary of where you worked in the past 15 years and the kind of work you did
  • If you own or rent, a copy of your mortgage or rental agreement
  • Ownership of vehicles
  • Copy of life insurance policies
  • Most recent bank account statement
  • Copy of stock/mutual funds certificate
  • Copy of bonds held
  • Copy of burial contracts
  • Copy of other household income

FAQs

How much will I get? 
SSI payment amounts are determined based on the amount of countable income that you receive, your living arrangement and the state in which you live. The basic monthly payment is called the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR). The FBR in 2016 is $733 per month for an individual and $1,100 per month for a couple. The amount is adjusted each year to account for cost-of-living changes.

Can I work?
You can return to work while receiving SSI payments. Refer to the “Return to Work” section of this guide for more information.

Will SSA review my disability? 
If SSA determined that your condition is expected to improve they will review your case around the date that they expect your disability to improve. In general if medical improvement is possible, SSA will review your case every three years. If medical improvement is not expected, your case will be reviewed about every 6 years. If you are working and receiving Medical Assistance, SSA can review your disability status more frequently, but not more often than once a year.