When people think of individuals with a disability, many assume that it is solely an obvious and physical impairment. So, what exactly is a disability? Whether you look at Merriam-Webster’s dictionary or the Department of Labor, the definition is about the same. A disability is physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of a person's major life activities. A disability is not always obvious and it may occur suddenly, rather than over a period of time or since birth. Individuals with disabilities are often too limited to work and earn enough money to cover basic living expenses. Depending on the disability, some individuals have never been able to have an occupation while others have had to quit work when the disability worsened. SSI or Supplemental Security Income was enacted to offer federal financial assistance to individual with disabilities; assistance with basic living needs such as food, shelter and clothing. If you are a disabled individual and are considering applying for SSI, it’s important to know how the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates and classifies disabilities.
What is a Disability?
When applying for SSI, the SSA will look need to evaluate your disability to see if it (and you) qualifies to receive benefits. When applying, you will need accurate, up-to-date, and thorough documentation, including your doctors, the dates of your visits, any hospitals you visited, any medications your take, and anything else related to your disability or as SSA calls “Impairments”.
When considering your disability, SSA looks at their “Blue Book” to see if it can be classified under their listing of impairments; which may include some, but not all:
- Musculoskeletal Problems: Some examples of musculoskeletal problems include arthritis, muscular dystrophy, fibromyalgia, and back pain
- Sense and Speech Issues: Vision or Hearing Impairments such as blindness and/or deafness
- Respiratory Conditions: Chronic Pulmonary Obstructive Disease (COPD), Asthma, cystic fibrosis, sleep-related breathing disorder, lung transplant
- Neurological Disorders: Such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Parkinson's disease, brain tumors, epilepsy
- Mental Disorders: Includes depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, mental retardation, substance addition disorders, and autistic disorder
- Immune Systems Disorders: HIV/AIDS, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis
- Hematological Disorders: Sickle Cell Disease, Anemia
- Skin Disorders: Burns, Dermatitis, chronic skin infections
- Digestive Problems: Liver disease, liver transplant, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), weight loss due to digestive issue
- Cardiovascular Conditions: Congenital heart disease, heart transplant, chronic heart failure
If your disability is listed in the “Blue Book”, it is not guaranteed that you will receive SSI benefits. SSA considers other factors when you file for SSI, such as income, work history, and assets. SSA will also decide if your disability prevents you from working (a job of any kind) or if your condition is “severe enough”. It is also important to remember that once you receive SSI, your disability may be reviewed from time to time. For example, your benefits could change if your disability worsens or gets better. If you have a disability that limits you from working and earning money to cover your basic living needs, it’s time to apply for Supplemental Security Income. Don’t let your disability limit your ability to enjoy life and receive assistance so you can have the basic things that everyone, of any ability, deserves