Caregivers and Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security Disability benefits may be your lifeline
Acting as caregiver for someone with a debilitating condition or illness often comes with certain level of stress. Not only does caretaking require time and energy, but it also requires financial stability. When money is tight, caring for a sick or elderly individual can seem impossible.

Fortunately, the Social Security Administration offers disability benefits to individuals who cannot work due to disability or illness. As a caregiver, these funds can be used to take care of medical bills, costs associated with living arrangements, or even things like food. Social Security Disability benefits may be the lifeline you need to provide a comfortable life for your loved one.

Preparing for the Application

For someone unfamiliar with the Social Security Disability application process, the task can seem daunting. To ensure the best possible outcome, it is important to be thoroughly prepared prior to filing your loved ones disability claim. The following information will give you a general overview of the application process and will help you get started.

Step 1: Determine which program fits the needs of your loved one.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) runs two separate benefit programs that each have their own eligibility requirements. It is important to learn about these programs so that you know which one best suits your loved ones needs.

The first program—Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)—is funded by Social Security taxes that workers pay into the system. Therefore, eligibility is based on an applicant’s work history. To qualify for SSDI the individual that you care for must have earned a certain amount of what the SSA refers to as, “work credits”. Learn more about work credits and SSDI. 

The second benefit program is called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Eligibility for SSI is based on an applicant’s finances—not on his or her work credits. This is a needs-based program, meaning that those with limited income and financial resources can qualify for SSI. SSI is often a good option for young people and other individuals who haven’t earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI. Learn more about SSI.

Step 2: Collect necessary records and documentation.
The SSA requires that a large amount of documentation be submitted along with an applicant’s initial application. It is important that you collect this documentation prior to submitting your loved one’s claim. Giving yourself enough time to collect this information will prevent you from making a mistake and will save you from unnecessary stress.

You will first need to collect medical records. These records are vital to receiving disability benefits because they serve as proof of your loved one’s illness or condition. It is recommended that you work closely with your loved one’s doctor or doctors to collect this information. These records may include documentation of the applicant’s diagnosis, treatments, response to treatments, hospitalizations, and medical tests. You should also ask the treating physician to supply an official statement detailing how your loved one’s condition prevents him or her from working.

You may also need to collect records pertaining to your loved one’s work history and finances. If he or she is applying for SSI, you will need to gather proof of income and assets. If you find that you are having a hard time collecting any of this information, it may be in your best interest to retain the services of an attorney or advocate. A legal profession will be able to relieve you of this duty and will make sure that your loved one’s application includes the necessary paperwork.

Step 3: Initiate the application process.

Once you and your loved one are ready to begin the application process, you can do so online at the SSA’s website or in person at your local Social Security office. To complete the initial application, you will be asked to complete and submit a number of forms. These forms include the Adult Disability Checklist, the Adult Disability Report and an authorization to release medical information. The applicant will have to sign the forms giving permission to the SSA to obtain medical records from the applicant’s treating physicians.

Make sure you submit all of the applicant’s medical documentation and any written statements from treating physicians along with the application for benefits. After you have submitted the application, you should receive a response within three to six months depending on where you live and the volume of claims being handled by your local Social Security office.

Receiving a Decision

Once you receive the SSA’s determination letter, you will be notified of the applicant’s approval or denial. If the applicant was denied benefits, it is important that you don’t give up. After an applicant is denied, they have the option to appeal the decision. Please note that nearly 70 percent of disability claims are denied during the initial stage of the application process. In the appeal phase nearly two-thirds of applicants are awarded benefits.

Although it can be difficult to apply for disability benefits on another person’s behalf, keep in mind that these programs are here to help you. Helping your loved one apply for disability benefits can help you provide them with a more comfortable life. To learn more about disability benefits visit Social Security Disability Help or contact Molly Clarke at

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About The CareGiver Partnership. The CareGiver Partnership helps caregivers and their loved ones with answers to their caregiving questions, including information about home health care products and supplies, from our Wisconsin-based team of Product Specialists who are all current or former caregivers. The company’s Web site provides the largest online library of resources on subjects most important to caregivers — from arthritis to assisted living, and Parkinson’s to prostate cancer — as well as access to more than 3,000 home care products for incontinence, skin care, mobility, home safety and daily living aids. The CareGiver Partnership was founded in 2004 by Lynn Wilson of Neenah, Wisc. Visit to learn more or call 1-800-985-1353.


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