Published on: October 25, 2023
If a disabling medical condition keeps you from working and earning a living, some states have short-term disability programs to help workers make ends meet. Florida, unfortunately, is not one of those states.
In the absence of a state program offering benefits for disability in Florida, disabled workers must look to the Social Security Administration benefits. The Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs pay benefits to people with long-term disabilities who meet eligibility guidelines.
The disability professionals at Disability Experts of Florida understand the financial challenges confronting someone with a disability. This blog post explains the process to qualify for disability benefits in Florida through SSDI and SSI, starting with an overview of the programs and explaining the medical and non-medical eligibility rules you must meet.
SSI Disability Program in Florida
SSI and SSDI are different programs providing disability benefits to people who meet Social Security's strict definition of disability. SSI is a needs-based program for people who have limited income and resources. Income includes Social Security benefits, pension income, and the cost of food or shelter given to you by a friend or other person.
The income you can have and still qualify for SSI depends on its source because not all income counts. For example, the first $20 of income you receive each month does not count toward determining eligibility. The first $65 of your monthly income from working and one-half of the remainder do not count in determining eligibility for SSI.
Resources, which are things you own, cannot exceed $2,000, but couples eligible for SSI may have resources with a total value not exceeding $3,000. Again, as with income, not all resources count. The following are examples of resources that do not count toward the totals:
- The home you live in and the land it’s built on.
- A car that you or someone living in your household use for transportation.
- Family burial plots.
- Money set aside for your burial up to $1,500.
A disability advocate at Disability Experts of Florida can help you determine if your income and resources are within the guidelines to qualify for disability benefits through SSI.
Florida SSDI program
SSDI is a disability benefits program through the Social Security Administration, but eligibility is not based on need, as is SSI. Instead, you must have worked long enough at jobs or through self-employment and paid Social Security taxes on the earned income to be “insured” and eligible for benefits.
Another difference between SSI and SSDI is how the monthly benefit is calculated. SSI beneficiaries receive up to $914 a month, but a cost-of-living adjustment is expected to increase the monthly benefit to $943 in 2024 for individuals. Couples now receive up to $1,371 from SSI, but it will increase in 2024 to $1,415.
Monthly SSDI payments depend on your lifetime earnings. The more earnings you had from jobs or self-employment subject to Social Security taxes, the more you receive each month in SSDI benefits.
Proving that you are disabled and unable to work
When you apply for disability through SSI and SSDI, you must be disabled. According to the standard used by Social Security to evaluate applications for benefits, you must prove the existence of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. As a result of the impairment or combination of impairments, you must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activities related to work, such as walking, climbing stairs, sitting for long periods, remembering, and lifting.
To simplify the evaluation process, Social Security employs a Listing of Impairments or, as it’s commonly called, the Blue Book. This is an online listing of physical and mental health disorders that automatically meet the medical requirements for disability benefits through SSI and SSDI.
The Listing of Impairments has categories of disorders or diseases of various bodily systems. If you apply for disability through SSI or SSDI with a listed medical or mental health condition, you must present medical records proving it. You also need to meet the non-medical requirements for SSI or SSDI, such as income and resource limits for SSI and work history for SSDI.
If you have a condition that is not a listed impairment, you may qualify for disability benefits if you can prove that your condition is equal in severity to a listed condition or that it prevents you from doing any kind of work.
Getting help applying for disability benefits in Florida
Applying for disability benefits can be a complex and lengthy process with more than two-thirds of applicants being denied benefits after the initial determination process. Improve your chance of success by getting help from a disability advocate in Florida at Disability Experts of Florida. Contact us now for a free consultation.