How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

Should I apply for SSI?

Someone recently asked if they should apply for SSI, noting that they had a college degree, and describing their condition as a "small disability". I used to be a disability examiner for the social security administration's disability determination services.


1. Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI
2. How to File for Disability - Tips for Filing
3. What if my SSI or Social Security Disability Application is denied?
4. Filing an Application for Disability

I usually tell people to initiate filing a claim for disability if they are either unable to work and earn what the social security administration refers to as a substantial and gainful income, or, for those who are currently working, if their medical condition begins to limit them to the extent that it is beginning to affect their ability to perform their job and has also (this part is very important) limited their presence on the job to the extent that their earnings are now below the threshold for SGA.

SGA is the acronym for substantial gainful activity and it refers to a dollar amount cutoff. Basically, if you work and make less than this amount, you can apply for disability. If you work and earn more than this amount, you can attempt to file, but your claim will be immediately denied and you will be given a "technical denial", meaning your medical records will not even be evaluated because you simply make too much income.

In your case, it sounds as though you have no income. You refer to your education and characterize your disability as a small one. But these really aren't relevant issues for Social Security Disability or SSI disability (a program that supplies disability benefits to those who have not worked long enough to earn the required credits to qualify for disability). Education has only a nominal effect on claims and your disability, as far as SSA is concerned, is only relevant in terms of how it affects your ability to engage in work activity.

For filing for SSI disability and Social Security Disability, the only issue is whether or not your condition prevents you from being able to work and earn a "substantial and gainful income". And the first step to proving that is whether or not you have earnings that are either above or below the SGA limit. If you have earnings below the SGA limit, and it sounds as though you do, then you should be able to file your claim. After that, whether or not you receive benefits will depend on what your medical records have to say about your specific functional limitations.

I should point out that social security is not concerned with your "ability to find a job". That is not a relevant issue (I won't get into vocational issues, the DOT, assertions by vocational experts at hearings, and the "citing of jobs" because I don't think that lends helpfully to this question). What is relevant is that your medical records indicate functional limitations that preclude the possibility of working and earning a substantial and gainful income.

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These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

What mental problems qualify for disability?
SSI disability status
How to prove you qualify for disability
Qualifying for disability eligibility requirements
How Does Social Security Decide If You Are Disabled
How much does disability pay?
Factors involved in Winning SSDI or SSI Claims
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The amount of back pay that you receive
Social Security medical disability determination process
If You Get Approved For SSDI Will You Also Get Medicare?
How long can you receive SSI or Social Security Disability benefits?
How Long Does A Social Security Disability Appeal Take?
How Long Does It Take To Get Disability Benefits When You First File?
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Social Security Disability attorney fees
Am I eligible to receive disability benefits?
What are the non medical requirements for disability
How to get SSI
Approved for disability benefits
SSD SSI disability hearing decision

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.