Social Security has two general disability programs categorized by either contributions of money paid into the system (Title II) or by financial need (Title XVI).
In the first program under Title II involving contributions into the system, the dollar amount of disability benefits paid out to a disabled person depends on the contributions of money paid into the Social Security system. If you worked as an employee, money was taken out of your paycheck and contributed into the system under your Social Security account number. Generally the more money you paid into the system over time, the greater your benefit will be at retirement or disability. Social Security generally sends to you in the mail about once a year a statement of your contributions into the system over the years. This statement is also helpful by telling you the dollar amount of your Title II monthly disability benefit.
To receive disability benefits under the Title II program under your own Social Security account number, you must pass a two-part test. The first part is to determine whether you have paid enough money into the Social Security system to be insured for disability benefits. The second part is to determine whether you are medically disabled through the sequential evaluation process. You must pass both parts of the test. For example, you may be clearly medically disabled; however, if you have not paid enough money into the system you may not be able to receive a Title II disability benefit.
Disability claims for statutorily blind individuals are more complicated claims and are considered differently. You may also be eligible under the Title II disability program under a different wage earner's Social Security account number if you qualify as a disabled widow or as a disabled adult child.
Title XVI (SSI)
The second general Social Security Disability program is under Title XVI. These Title XVI claims are for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI claims are based on financial hardship, not on contributions into the system.
To receive disability benefits under the SSI program, you must pass a different two-part test. The first part is to determine whether your income or resources are so limited that you may qualify for this financial needs-based program. This financial test is similar (but not exactly like) other financial needs-based programs such as food stamps. The second part is to determine whether you are medically disabled through the sequential evaluation process. You must pass both parts of the test. For example, you may be clearly medically disabled; however, if you have too much income or resources you may not be able to receive an SSI disability benefit.
If you have a child under age 18, your child may qualify for SSI benefits. Children's claims for SSI benefits are evaluated in a different way.
This explanation is provided for information purposes only. It is not intended to offer legal advice. Your claim may involve other more complicated considerations not discussed above. If you have filed or are considering filing a claim for Social Security Disability benefits, you may want to consult a Social Security Disability lawyer who has experience with the Social Security Disability process. An experienced Social Security Disability attorney should be able to explain this process and answer your general questions.