Can You Get Disability If You Have Never Worked?

You can get a disability if you have never worked. You may, however, find it challenging to get approved without the help of an experienced advocate. There are lawyers who specialize in Social Security Disability who can help you determine if you are eligible, and if so, assist you in applying for benefits.  

Social Security Disability Insurance application form with pen on top and notebook and clips on the desk.

You Can Get Disability If You Have Never Worked

People who have never worked may worry that they can’t get disability payments through social security. They are correct in that they will not qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI. SSDI is available and intended for people who earned credits by working and paying Social Security taxes. There is, however, another option available to those who have never worked. If you have never worked, you can contact a social security disability lawyer to see if you might meet the qualifications for a separate federally funded program called Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.  

SSI is a federal program that is funded through general tax dollars, rather than through Social Security taxes deducted from a worker’s pay. It is intended to help provide resources for people who are elderly, blind, disabled, and have little income or assets. SSI is a need-based program intended to ensure that people with little to no earning potential and a condition that prevents them from gainful employment will have the help they require for basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter. If you qualify for supplemental security income, you may also qualify for other aid programs as well. It is important to know the options available to you in your specific situation.

Applying for SSI Benefits

In order to qualify for SSI benefits, you need to be diagnosed with one of the social security disability qualifying conditions. Your social security disability lawyer will be able to help you determine if you meet the qualifying conditions set forth by the government. Determining your eligibility for supplemental security income has 2 parts: general eligibility, and financial eligibility. You will need to meet the requirements of both parties in order to qualify for the SSI program.

SSI Eligibility Requirements

General eligibility for blindness requires that you be totally or legally blind. Legally blind is defined as 20/200 vision in your best eye after correction. You may also qualify if you have a severe physical or mental disability that prevents you from working, or if you have a child with a severe disability which prevents him or her from leading a normal life. Another option for eligibility will be if you are age 65 or older. 

The Social Security Administration also has a compassionate allowance initiative to help streamline the process and speed up the waiting time for reaching a disability determination for people with the most serious disabilities. Talk to your social security disability lawyer to find out if you have a qualifying disability. Your attorney will have the most up-to-date information about the disabilities included on the list and will be able to walk you through the application process for requesting Supplemental security income in Illinois.  They will also be able to help you gather any medical records or supporting documentation required for your claim.

Determining whether you meet the financial eligibility can be a daunting task. Because supplemental security income is a need-based program, the Social Security Administration will consider your resources and your income to determine financial eligibility. Resources are considered to be any assets or property that you own.  

Valuing Assets 

The limit for assets available to you in order to qualify for SSI is $2000 for an individual or child and $3000 for a couple. Assets that count toward this total are cash, bank accounts, stocks/bonds/mutual funds, any vehicles beyond your primary transportation, life insurance policies, land, or personal property that you can convert to cash in order to use them for food or shelter. These assets are totaled and must fall under the amount specified in order to meet the financial eligibility requirements.

Some assets are not counted against you, however. Your primary residence is one example of an asset or property that doesn’t count against you. Your primary vehicle, which is used to take you to work, medical appointments, daily activities, or used for a person with a qualifying disability, is also not counted against you. Any grants or scholarships you’ve received for education expenses will not be considered. You will also not be penalized for any government assistance you are currently receiving. After all, this is a need-based program, and it stands to reason that if you qualify for supplemental security income, you will also qualify for other forms of government assistance. Income tax refunds will never be counted toward your assets in determining eligibility, nor will assistance from charities and non-profit organizations.

Supporting Documentation

The federal government has many programs in place to help assist citizens in need, each with its own requirements for application. In most cases, you will need to provide original documents during the application process.  For example, if the Social Security Administration asks you for a W-2, a photocopy of the original is usually acceptable.  

However, if you are required to submit your birth certificate for proof of eligibility, they will require that you send in your original birth certificate. Don’t worry, they will send it back when they are finished reviewing your application. If you can’t find your original birth certificate or other required documentation, ask your Social Security disability lawyer for help in retrieving them. He or she may even be able to get your new original documents from the issuing agencies.

Survivor Benefits Available Through Social Security

Another option that may be available to you is applying for survivor benefits. There are several types of survivor benefits available through the Social Security Administration. Each type of survivor benefits has its own requirements, and your Social Security disability lawyer can help you determine if you are eligible. The different types of survivors benefits are as follows:

  • Widows/Widowers or surviving divorced spouse’s benefits
  • Child’s benefits
  • Mother’s or Father’s Benefits (You must have a child under age 16 or disabled in your care.)
  • Lump-Sum death payment
  • Parent’s benefits (You must have been dependent on your child at the time of their death)

All types of survivor benefits will require some of the same documentation when applying. Each type of benefit will require you to submit an original birth certificate for yourself, your spouse, or your child, depending on the type of benefit requested. They will all require proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful resident status. Most will also ask for last year’s W-2 or self-employment tax returns. Finally, each type of survivor benefit will ask for proof of death. These are the basic documents that you should have prepared for any survivor benefit requests.

There are some requirements that are specific to each type of survivor benefit requested. To determine eligibility, you could be asked to provide certain documents specific to the type of benefit being requested. Whether it is military discharge papers, a marriage certificate, a divorce decree, or specific Social Security Administration forms required to prove disability, your Social Security disability lawyer will be able to help you determine what documentation you need.

How Can a Social Security Disability Lawyer Help?

Check with a Social Security disability lawyer to see if you qualify to receive disability even if you have never worked. The government has multiple programs available to those who qualify. Some do require prior work, but not all. If you’ve never worked or haven’t worked recently, and you have a severe physical or mental disability, supplemental security income may be the answer you’ve been looking for. If you are a surviving spouse, parent, or child and dependent upon the benefits of someone who has died, you may be eligible for survivor’s benefits. Both are viable options and, when combined with other government-funded programs, could help maintain your ability to tend to your basic needs.  

If you have questions about your eligibility for any of these programs, contacting a Social Security disability lawyer may be in your best interest. He or she will be able to ensure that you’re not missing out on a program that could improve your quality of life.

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
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