Feature Guest Blogger: Tips on applying for SSDI as a younger adult.

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits as a Younger Adult

Having a disabling condition or illness can impact every aspect of a person’s life. There are more obvious complications—like pain, medication, and doctor’s appointments—and then there are other, less expected obstacles. Among these:  Financial instability.

When a person is diagnosed with a serious illness, they may not immediately think about medical expenses or even how their condition will affect their ability to work. They may soon find that their health has left them unable to pay their bills and unable to earn a living. In times like these, it becomes necessary to seek financial assistance.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes that certain conditions make it impossible to work and offers assistance in the form of Social Security Disability benefits. Although people commonly assume that disability benefits are for older individuals, a person can become disabled, and therefore unable to work, at any point during their lifetime.

The following blog post contains helpful information specifically for individuals in their 20’s and 30’s who are in need of disability benefits and aren’t sure where to begin the process.

Disability Programs and Age

There are very few age restrictions that govern the Social Security Disability program. That being said, age does in fact play a large role in determining whether an individual qualifies for disability benefits. To understand why an applicant’s age is significant, you must first understand the two different Social Security Disability programs.

It is important to note that to qualify for any type of disability benefits you must first meet the SSA’s definition of disability. Essentially this means that you must be able to prove that your condition makes it impossible for you to do any type of work and that your condition will last at least a year.  In addition to meeting these criteria, each disability program has its own set of technical guidelines.

The first program, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is funded by the Social Security taxes that most workers pay. Eligibility for this program is determined by a person’s work history. To qualify, you must have earned a certain number of what the SSA refers to as work credits. If you are in your 20’s or 30’s, it is possible that you have not been in the work force long enough to qualify for SSDI benefits. Learn more about work credits here: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/glossary/work-credits.

If you have not earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits, you may find that the second program—Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—is a better fit for your needs. SSI is a needs-based program. This means that your eligibility is based on low income rather than work history. Learn more about the specific SSI requirements here: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/glossary/supplemental-security-income-ssi.

Age and Retraining

When the SSA evaluates your application for disability benefits, they will use the information you provide to determine whether or not you are able to work.  They will also decide whether or not you are able to learn how to do a different job—more specifically, a job that your condition does not interfere with. Typically, the SSA considers younger individuals more able to adapt to a new type of work than older individuals.

How to Improve Your Chances of Being Awarded Benefits

If you want to increase your chances of being awarded Social Security Disability benefits at a younger age, there are a few steps you can take.

  • Know the differences between the programs and be prepared to apply for the program or programs best suited to your needs.
  • Be sure to provide adequate medical documentation of your condition and symptoms.
  • Work with a medical professional. A medical professional who is familiar with your condition will be able to provide a written statement to support your application. These statements are given quite a bit of weight when the SSA evaluates your application.
  • Consider working with a disability attorney. A disability attorney will be very familiar with the application process and will be able to help you gather all the information you will need in order to be approved.

Applying for Disability Benefits

Once you have decided to begin the application process, you can do so on the SSA’s website or in person at your local Social Security office. You will be required to fill out several forms including the Adult Disability Checklist, the Adult Disability Application and the Adult Disability Report. You will also be required to sign an Authorization to Disclose Medical Information form. This gives the SSA the authorization to gather medical evidence to help support your disability claim.

While it can be more difficult for an individual in their 20’s or 30’s to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, it is not by any means impossible.  Taking the time to research the process and collect medical evidence will only increase your chances of approval. Remember that although applying for disability benefits may seem overwhelming, once you are approved, the experience will ultimately be worth it.

For further information visit Social Security Disability Help or contact Molly Clarke at mac@ssd-help.org.


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