Supplemental Security Income (SSI) & Social Security Disability (SSD)

<– Back to Self Help: Legal Information


This brochure is intended to help you understand SSI and SSD benefits that may be available to you.  If you need further assistance or have an SSI/SSD appeal you should contact the legal department at The Family Center.  SSI and SSD are regulated by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Watch this video to learn more about SSI and SSD.


These are federal cash benefits. You may be eligible if:

1.  You are disabled. You can see if SSD or SSI will consider you disabled by going through the “Are You Disabled?” portion of this brochure. Generally, “disabled,” means you have a physical or mental impairment that prevents you from performing common daily activities.

2.  You have worked for 10 years.  You must have worked on the books. You and your employer must have paid taxes.


These are federal cash benefits. You may be eligible if:

1.  You are disabled. SSI has the same disability standard as SSD.

2.  You are “poor”. You are poor if your monthly income is not greater than $500 a month, and you have no savings or other assets worth more than $2000.

3.  You are a US Citizen or Legal US Resident. There are limited exceptions to this. If you are not a US Citizen or Legal Resident ask to speak to a Family Center Attorney for assistance.



To be considered disabled for SSI or SSI benefits you must satisfy a 5 part test. Even if you have been determined to be disabled by another state or city agency you must still prove to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that you qualify under the their test. The test is meant to determine whether or not you can work.

1.  Are You Presently Employed? If you currently work you will not be considered disabled and will not receive benefits. If you do not work proceed to part 2 of the test.

2.  Do you suffer from a severe impairment? SSA has a list of illness it considers to be a severe impairments. HIV and cancer are severe impairments. Having HIV or Cancer does not, by itself, qualify you as disabled. However, if you have HIV, Cancer or a similar illness you should move on to step # 3.

3.  Does your impairment automatically qualify you as disabled? Some impairments are so severe a person will be considered disabled automatically. SSA keeps a list of impairments that automatically qualify a person. The seventy of the impairment must be medically documented.

4.  Do you have the physical and/or mental capacity to perform a past job? If yes, then you will be found not to be disabled. If you use to work as secretary and you could still do so, you will not be considered disabled.

5.  Do you have mental and/or physical capacity to perform any kind of work available in the national economy? The common example for this is a ticket taker. If SSA finds you can sit and collect tickets at a movie theater you will he found not to be disabled. It does not matter if you do not have this job or if this job is not available. The mere fact that you could-do it disqualifies you from receiving benefits. If you cannot perform any job then you will be found to be disabled.


If you feel you are disabled and qualify for SSI or SSD you can apply on-line at You should fill out the application with as much detail as possible


Don’t panic! People are routinely denied from SSI/SSD benefits. If you are denied but believe you are entitled to benefits you should do 3 things:

1.  Appeal. You will receive a letter in the mail stating that you have been denied. This letter will inform you that you can appeal the decision. This means that you will be given an opportunity to present your case before a judge. You should fill out the form included with the denial letter titled “request for appeal” immediately.

2.  Get Your Medical Records. Your medical records will be used as evidence of a disability at your appeal heating. You should talk to every doctor you see regularly and ask for copies of your records

3.  Call The Family Center. As soon as you file for an appeal you should contact the Legal Services Department at the Family Center. An attorney or paralegal will-be assigned to your case to help you with the process. The attorney will attend the healing with you.

Still have questions? You can speak to an attorney at The Family Center about questions specific to your case. We will be happy to assist you. Do not be discouraged- This is a complicated process and we are here to help.

If you have questions, or are told that you are not eligible, call The Family Center immediately at (212) 766-4522 ext. 150.

Attorney advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Please see our Notice & Disclaimer.