Social Security Disability provides financial assistance to people who cannot work due to disabling medical conditions. As any Illinois Social Security lawyer knows, SSD benefits are not awarded based on financial need. Besides meeting medical criteria, beneficiaries must have adequate earnings to qualify as “insured.” Given this requirement, SSD benefits are not directly available to people who have never worked. However, these individuals may be eligible for other disability benefits.

Benefits for dependents

The dependents of SSD beneficiaries may qualify to receive their own benefits. A dependent’s health and financial need do not affect the person’s eligibility for benefits. Dependent benefits may be available to spouses, ex-spouses, widows and widowers of beneficiaries, depending on each dependent’s age. Someone who cares for the minor or disabled child of an SSD beneficiary may also collect benefits, regardless of age.

Spouses and ex-spouses of beneficiaries can collect dependent benefits after the age of 62. However, ex-spouses may only receive benefits if the marriage lasted more than 10 years. Furthermore, ex-spouses must not remarry or qualify to collect a higher benefit based on another person’s work history.

Surviving spouses and ex-spouses of deceased beneficiaries may collect survivors benefits starting at age 60. Survivors benefits are only available to ex-spouses if the marriage to the beneficiary lasted over 10 years. Surviving spouses and ex-spouses who qualify as disabled may begin collecting benefits at age 50. The Social Security Administration considers a person disabled if the following criteria are met:

  • The disabling medical condition is expected to last over a year or prove fatal.
  • The person can no longer perform any work that he or she performed in the recent past.
  • The person is unable to pursue new work due to the disabling condition.

As any Illinois Social Security lawyer understands, people who meet these criteria may also qualify for other Social Security benefits.

SSI disability benefits

The SSA awards Supplemental Security Income disability benefits based on financial need. The SSA uses the same medical criteria to determine whether individuals are eligible for SSD and SSI benefits. However, SSI beneficiaries do not have to meet earnings requirements to qualify for benefits.

SSI disability benefits are only available to people with low income and assets. In 2015, an SSI beneficiary’s countable monthly income cannot exceed $733, and a beneficiary’s assets cannot exceed $2,000. However, the SSA does not count every asset or all income toward these limits. This can make determining benefit eligibility challenging.

Disabled individuals may benefit from discussing the availability of these forms of assistance with an Illinois Social Security lawyer. An attorney may be able to offer advice on an individual’s eligibility for both categories of benefits.