Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, benefits are available to those who are blind, aged or otherwise disabled. These benefits are reserved for those who are suffering from a disability in addition to significant financial hardship. To qualify for SSI benefits with a condition such as bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or depression, an applicant must first meet the definition of "disability" as implemented in the Social Security Disability Act. The Social Security Administration will then review the applicant's financial situation to determine eligibility for SSI benefits.
Understanding SSI Benefits
SSI benefits are not available for all disabled individuals and are reserved for those who are U.S. citizens, receive a limited monthly income and have limited personal resources. Income included in the evaluation process includes free food and shelter, wages and money received from other sources (such as state aid or gifts). Limited resources refers to things you own, including your car, land, bank accounts and any other assets. As of 2012, applicants for SSI benefits may qualify if the resources they possess are valued at $2,000 or less.
Meeting the Definition of Disability
The Social Security Administration, or SSA, maintains its own distinct definition of disability. Those seeking SSI benefits must fill out a detailed application as well as submit medical evidence from their doctor. These documents are reviewed by SSA employees to determine disability eligibility. If you are adjudged as disabled by another governmental or non-governmental agency, this decision has no bearing on the Social Security Administration's decision as to whether you are disabled for purposes of receiving SSI benefits. To qualify as disabled, your bipolar disorder, ADHD or depression must be so severe that you cannot do the work you did before. The SSA must also decide that you could not adjust to different work that might be suitable for you given your age, education and experience level. Lastly, your condition must be likely to last longer than 12 months for you to qualify for benefits.
List of Disabling Conditions
Meeting the definition of disability is an absolute requisite to qualify for SSI benefits. In general, applicants must submit medical evidence in the form of documentation from their doctor detailing the applicant's condition, symptoms and side effects. The SSA then makes a determination after weighing the application claim as a whole. The SSA maintains a list of severely disabling conditions organized by body system. Conditions meeting the criteria on the list are presumed severe enough to warrant an automatic finding of disability without the need for a detailed medical investigation. In other words, applicants with a condition and symptoms appearing on this list are presumed to have met the severity requirement described above. Section 12.04 describes affective disorders, including depressive syndrome and bipolar syndrome. Hyperactivity disorders are found across multiple sections including affective disorders and anxiety-related disorders.
Applying for Benefits
The determination of eligibility for disability begins with the application process. All individuals seeking SSI benefits must fill out an application, regardless of their condition or impairment. Applications are available from the SSA and you can request one by phone. Alternately, you can apply for benefits by visiting an SSA field office in your community. SSI benefit applications are not available for completion online. If your condition makes it impossible for you to appear and fill out the documents, you can elect a person to help you with the process.
Stephanie Reid has been writing professionally since 2007, with work published in the Virginia Bar Association's "Family Law Quarterly" and the "Whittier Journal of Child and Family Advocacy." She received her Juris Doctor from Regent University and her Bachelor of Arts in French and child development from Florida State University. Reid is admitted to practice law in Delaware and Maryland.