It’s a natural human desire to want to work. Sometimes, however, disabling conditions prevent that from happening. If you’ve already been working for awhile before the disability occurs, and paying into the Social Security system, then you may be eligible for Social Security disability insurance benefits.

But even if you haven’t worked for pay and paid into the system, there is another form of support that may be available. It is called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The SSI program is celebrating its fortieth anniversary this year.

The program currently provides benefits to about 8 million people who have various conditions that prevent them from working. The income support is crucial for many of these people. Without it, some of them would surely fall into homelessness.

It’s worth remembering that President Nixon signed SSI into law in 1972, disabled people often were consigned to large state-operated care facilities. These facilities tended to isolate the disabled from their families and from a broader community of support.

The basic criteria for SSI are pretty straightforward. To be eligible, someone must be at least 65 or older or have a severe disability. But there is also another requirement: limited income and limited assets.

Even if you think you meet these requirements, it can take some effort to get approved. Indeed, fewer than 40 percent of initial applicants succeed in getting SSI benefits.

Keep in mind, however, that these benefits are not charity. They are a matter of law. If you believe you’re right to receive them has not been honored, it makes sense to seek counsel from a lawyer experienced in Supplemental Security Income law.

Source: “Happy Birthday, SSI: A Safety Net for Vulnerable Americans,” Huffington Post, Donna Meltzer, 10-30-12

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Detroit Supplemental Security Income page.