The Social Security program was created to give benefits to people who have a disability that prevents them from being gainfully employed or who otherwise can’t support themselves due to a mental condition, age, sickness and other factors.
According to the Social Security Administration, a disability is a condition, either mental or physical, that prevents you from doing substantial gainful activity (work) and will last at least one year or will inevitably cause death. As you can probably guess, there are thousands of reasons someone may not be able to work due to something medical related so there isn’t technically anything set in stone in the realm of “disability” besides obvious conditions like blindness. Just because your doctor says you shouldn’t work does not mean you’re technically “disabled” either. This leads to a lot of confusion and frustration for those applying for benefits.
There are two main types of disability insurance you’ll probably be applying for and these are:
Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI and this is available to disabled people who have worked for a number of years. Their benefits will depend on how much they made in the past few years and this can become very complicated.
Supplemental Security Income or SSI is available for the elderly or disabled people who have very limited income and few assets.
How Much Will I Receive Per Month?
You used to be able to estimate what you’d get per month based on what others in your area were making. Since the entire Social Security Administration is easily accessed online now, you can simply go there, make an account and see the exact amount you’d get if you applied for and were approved for disability right now. You can various things with the Social Security calculator.
People on SSI get different amounts and this changes quite often. As of April, 2013, a single individual will receive $710 per month and a couple will receive $1066.
So what should you be applying for? Well, this is a hard question to answer and seeking the counsel of a professional group that specializes in this area may be the best course of action. If you worked a high paying job for 10 years, then lost it due to a mental illness and spent the last five years working at Taco Bell, you could very well end up with a terrible monthly benefit amount via SSDI. Since it’s a mental illness however, these can be severely limiting and you may be better off going the SSI route.
It’s a very complicated process and ALWAYS talk to as many people as possible about your best course of action. There are advocacy groups in your area who may be able to offer some useful information and checking around online can offer some good advice.
Keep in mind if you apply for or are receiving disability benefits, you can also qualify for discounted housing, food stamps, Medicaid, and many other discounted services for disabled individuals. You can often get bus passes as well so if you can’t drive, you can still get around freely.