The Federal Requirements for Social Security Disability Benefits

People in Michigan who believe they may qualify for Social Security disability payments need to have a realistic sense of the type of aid that may be available to them. The US Social Security Administration provides several types of disability benefits to eligible applicants. Each type of benefit requires different criteria to be met for eligibility.

The benefits include general disability benefits, disability benefits for a disabled surviving spouse of a deceased worker, and disability benefits for a disabled divorced spouse of a deceased worker. In the first case, the worker receives the benefits directly as a result of his or her eligibility. In the second and third, a surviving widowed spouse or divorced spouse who has a disability can claim benefits based both on a personal disability and the Social Security credits of the worker to whom he or she was married.

The most notable requirement for eligibility is that applicants have suffered a long-term illness or injury that makes it unlikely that they will be able to go back to work within a year. The illness or injury must be severe enough to be considered a disability. The Social Security office has published guidelines of illnesses that can be considered disabilities if they significantly impact a person’s ability to function. Mental and physical illnesses are eligible for coverage, and the list is not exclusive.

Applicants (or their deceased spouses) must also have earned sufficient Social Security credits to be eligible for disability benefits. Social Security credits are earned over time as workers pay money each month into the Social Security program.

For disabled widows, widowers or former spouses of a worker, eligibility is further limited to those who satisfy age, marriage length and marital status requirements. Their own Social Security credits are also taken into account. 

Applicants should know that there is a significant claims backlog in the Social Security office and benefits, even for those who qualify, will take time to become available. It is essential to gather the necessary information that may help them avoid having to refile, and they may also have to go through the appeals process if the initial claim is denied.