Social Security Disability Insurance
Written by: Bruce L. Weider | 1.29.2024

Social Security Disability Benefits For Individuals With Developmental Disabilities

When you have a loved one with developmental disabilities, you want to make sure they have access to all the benefits available to them. Social Security disability benefits can help with medical care, living expenses, and other financial issues. However, the process of applying for these benefits can be complicated. To learn more about applying for disability assistance in Michigan, schedule an appointment with an experienced Social Security disability benefits attorney with Bruce L. Weider, PC, by calling (734) 485-0535

What Is the Difference Between SSI and SSDI?

“Developmental disabilities” is an umbrella term which covers a variety of intellectual, physical, sensory, and neurological conditions. Individuals seeking Social Security disability benefits on the basis of any of these disabilities, as well as anyone who would like to support a loved one with any of these disabilities through the Social Security benefits application process, should be aware of the distinctions between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While both programs offer financial assistance, their financing sources and qualifying requirements differ.

Supplemental Security Income

SSI functions as a needs-based source of, as its name suggests, supplemental income––even though, in practical terms, for some individuals it is the primary, or even the only, income they receive. Eligibility for SSI is determined based on:

  • The person's existing income, if any
  • Their current resources (such as savings accounts or liquid assets)
  • Living arrangements, including whether they share household expenses with another adult

Many people with developmental impairments are eligible for this program since it is common for individuals with developmental disabilities to struggle with limited income and resources. 

Social Security Disability Insurance

SSDI is an insurance program that is paid for by payroll taxes. The accumulation of work credits and an individual's employment history determine eligibility. Any condition that renders an individual “totally disabled” and unable to maintain any form of employment may qualify the person to receive these benefits, provided they have acquired sufficient work credits.

Benefits from Social Security disability insurance and Supplemental Security income can be received at the same time by people with developmental disabilities, a situation known as “concurrent benefits.”. However, individuals must fulfill the requirements for each program separately in order to be eligible for both programs. All sources of income and resources, including SSDI payments, may have an impact on the amount of the benefits dispensed through SSI. The Social Security Administration will determine the total amount an individual is eligible to receive after they consider all sources of income.

What Is Passive Income for the Disabled?

Passive income can cover a wide range of sources. Rental income, dividends, and interests are some earnings that are commonly referred to as “passive” income. The Social Security Administration allows disabled individuals to receive passive income, subject to strict limits. If an individual happens to exceed them, it can affect their SSDI eligibility. The Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) threshold is one such limit. If a person's earnings exceed that threshold, the overage can jeopardize the individual’s eligibility. For 2024, the SGA limit stands at $1,550 per month for non-blind individuals. 

Earning passive income does not mean the individual will not qualify for these entitlements. The SSA acknowledges that many individuals with developmental disabilities incur regular expenses related to their condition. When individuals with developmental disabilities may incur specific costs directly tied to their impairment, this in turn can affect their overall financial situation. Expenses related to accommodations, specialized equipment, or medical treatments can be deducted from the total income. When these expenditures are factored into their total financial situation, disabled individuals who earn passive income may still fall below the SGA threshold.

Does a Developmental Delay Qualify for SSI?

Many individuals wonder if developmental delays qualify individuals for Supplemental Security income. However, it is important to understand that developmental delays and developmental disabilities, though related, are not the same thing. A developmental delay may be an early indication of a developmental disability, or it may be resolved as the individual outgrows or catches up from the delay. Therefore, a developmental delay by itself may not qualify for SSI or SSDI.

The SSA evaluates developmental disabilities on a case-by-case basis. Here are some examples of developmental disabilities, some of which may present with developmental delays, and may qualify an individual for SSI, depending on the degree of impairment in their particular case:

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Down syndrome
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)
  • Communication disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Global developmental delay
  • Specific learning disabilities
  • Fragile X syndrome

Many of these conditions can be eligible for Social Security benefits from both SSI and SSDI. However, eligibility will depend on the severity of impairment, individual work history, and the applicant’s access to other resources. As well, the qualifications can change from time to time. 

How Does the SSDI Application Process Work?

The path to securing Social Security disability benefits can be challenging. Here is a breakdown of key steps in the process.

Documentation and Medical Records

Individuals or their families will want to gather all the medical records and documentation of the developmental disability, including reports from healthcare professionals, diagnostic tests, and any other relevant medical evidence. This evidence helps to prove the existence of the disability and documents the severity of its impact on the applicant. 

Work History

For SSDI, make sure to have tax records, pay stubs, and W-2 forms to show eligibility based on work credits. Remember that this program’s eligibility will focus on the amount of time employed, which translates into work credits earned by the applicant. 

Completing the Application

The application for SSDI involves detailed questions about the individual's medical condition, work history, and daily activities. The form must be filled out completely and accurately. Any errors can result in an extended application process and delay a potential approval. 

Legal Assistance

With the complexity of the SSDI application process, individuals with developmental disabilities and any friends or family members who wish to support them may want to consider getting legal assistance. An attorney may be able to assist with making sure that the applicant applies for the most appropriate program(s), and provide guidance in gathering records and completing the application. Individuals seeking Social Security disability benefits in Michigan can reach out to Bruce L. Weider, PC, to set up a consultation to review the steps of the application journey.

What Is the Maximum Back Payment for SSDI?

When it comes to getting money from Social Security disability insurance, many people wonder if they can get back payments. SSDI may sometimes provide retroactive benefits. That means an individual may receive a payment back to the date they received an injury or become disabled. The total back payment an individual can receive through SSDI depends on when the disability started, but is capped at a maximum of 12 months and may be decreased by the five-month waiting period, according to the Social Security Handbook. The date the disability started is documented when the applicant applies for benefits.

Reach Out to a Michigan Social Security Attorney Today

Developmental disabilities constitute a broad spectrum of conditions. Understanding the application process for Social Security disability benefits and the medical evidence needed can be difficult. If you are confused or overwhelmed by the process of applying for Social Security disability benefits, or by attempting to support a loved one through their application process, you are not alone. To seek assistance in navigating the complexities of a Social Security disability benefits application for developmental disorders, consider contacting a Social Security benefits attorney. Schedule a consultation with Bruce L. Weider, PC, by calling (734) 485-0535.

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