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Finding Your Way - Disabilities

  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers two programs that provide benefits to persons with a disability:

    • The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program [Title II of the Social Security Act] provides payment of benefits to eligible individuals.
    • The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program (Title XVI of the Social Security Act) provides SSI payments to individuals with a disability (including children under age 18) who have limited income and resources.

    The major difference is that SSI determination is based on age/disability and limited income and resources, whereas SSDI determination is based on disability and work history. It is possible to have both benefits if you have both limited income and a work history.

    Comparison of SSI and SSDI

    Factor SSI SSDI
    Eligibility Based On Age (65+) OR blindness (any age) OR disability (any age) AND limited/no income and resources Disability AND sufficient work history through own/family employment
    When Benefits Begin 1st full month after the date the claim was filed or, if later, the date found eligible 6th full month of disability; 6-month period begins with the first full month after the date SSA decides the disability began
    Health Insurance Automatically qualifies for Medicaid upon receipt (in most states) Automatically qualifies for Medicare after a 24-month waiting period from time benefits begin (no waiting period for persons with Lou Gehrig’s disease/ALS)
  • The Social Security Act prescribes rules for deciding if an individual is eligible for benefits. Find details about how children and adults can qualify for benefits.

    The Social Security Administration defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

    A child under age 18 would be considered a person with a disability if he or she has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments that causes marked and severe functional limitations, and that can be expected to cause death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

  • There are several ways you can apply for SSI and SSDI benefits at the same time.

    You can apply online.   Click ‘apply for disability’

    If you are not able to complete the application in one setting, it is very important that you save what you have completed in the application process, so you can go back and complete the rest of the application at a later date.

    You can also apply by calling the Social Security office. The representative will make an appointment with you to complete your application over the telephone.


    *You can also schedule an in person interview to receive help applying for disability benefits

    People who are deaf or hard of hearing may call the toll-free “TTY” number at: 800-325-0778

    If you are homeless or at risk for homelessness, please seek assistance through the SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) program. SOAR is designed to increase access to SSI/ SSDI for eligible adults and children who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and have a serious mental illness, medical impairment, and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder.

    Find more information about SOAR

  • The Social Security Administration created a checklist to help you get ready for your appointment or when filing online. Make sure that you have the following:

    • Your Social Security card or a record of your Social Security number Your birth certificate or other proof of your age
    • Information about the home where you live, such as your mortgage or your lease and landlord’s name
    • Payroll slips, bank books, insurance policies, burial fund records, and other information about your income and the things you own
    • The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of doctors, hospitals, and clinics you have been to if you are applying for SSI because you are disabled or blind
    • Proof of U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizen status
    • Medical records already in your possession. SSA will help get the rest of your records
    • Workers’ compensation information, including the settlement agreement, date of injury, claim number, and proof of other disability awarded payment amounts
    • Names and dates of birth of your minor children and your spouse Dates of marriages and divorces
    • Checking or savings account number, including the bank’s 9-digit routing number Name, address, and phone number of a person to contact if SSA is unable to reach you
  • Right to appeal:

    Contact the Office of Hearing Operations if denied for Social Security benefits.

    CALL: 1-800-772-1213

    TTY: 1-800-325-0778

    An estimated 70% of applicants are denied the first time they apply for Social Security Disability benefits. Please do not get discouraged if you are denied benefits. It is important and helpful to seek out an attorney that specializes in disability benefits that can help you in the appeal process.

  • The State of Michigan’s Disability Resources Website provides a list of state programs and services for individuals who have a disability.

    These programs include:

    The Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP)

    The State Vocational Rehabilitation agency serving persons who are blind or visually impaired.

    CALL: 800-292-4200 or 517-241-1100

    TTY: 888-864-1212 or 517-241-1092

    BSBP provides the following services:

    • Glasses for children whose best visual acuity is 20/70 or worse with best correction from birth to age 13 in partnership with the schools
    • Braille and Talking Book Library
    • Workforce development, vocational rehabilitation, and pre-employment transition services
    • Independent living services for seniors
    • BSBP Training Center: a residential facility located in Kalamazoo that teaches independent living and workforce skills

    The Michigan Department of Civil Rights Division on Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing

    The state office that provides technical support, information and referral services, accommodations, and interpreter information and services mostly on a statewide advocacy level.

    Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council

    Works on public policy, advocacy, employment, and supports individuals with developmental disabilities. It also provides grants to students and supports the Self-Advocates of Michigan.

    Michigan School for the Deaf

    Located in Flint, the school provides academics and social excellence in American Sign Language (ASL) and English for students from infancy to graduation. The school provides bilingual classroom instruction, reading interventions, ASL interventions, auditory therapy, audiological services, speech and language services, medical services, counseling services, transition coordination services, ASL classes for families, and sports and other extracurricular activities. There is no charge to parents.

    Disability Benefits 101 Michigan (DB101)

    DB101 helps people with disabilities understand the connection between work and benefits.

    For more information, including benefits planning estimator tools, visit the DB101 website.

    Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS)

    A person with a disability may be eligible for MRS if the disability causes problems in preparing for, finding, or keeping a job.

    Visit the MRS website.

    For more information about MRS or a listing of MRS office call toll free: 800-605-6722 or TTY: 888-605-6722

    The ARC of Michigan

    The Arc of Michigan works with its local chapters to help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It provides advocacy, education, training and information to families and professionals.

    Locate a chapter near you.

    Disability Network Oakland and Macomb

    Disability Network regional offices are local Centers for Independent Living that provide a variety of services for individuals with disabilities. These services include information and referral, independent living skills, employment and job readiness, peer support, home help and health services, community transition services, pre-employment transitional services (youth training), benefit planning counseling, community enrichment, housing assistance, healthy living and wellness training, mobility training and safety services, and a loan closet.

    For more information, visit the Disability Network website

    To find your local office: CILs - Disability Network / Michigan

    Disabilities Rights Michigan (DRM)

    An independent, private, nonprofit, nonpartisan protection and advocacy organization authorized by Federal and State law to advocate and protect the legal rights of people with disabilities in Michigan.

    Find more information about Disability Rights Michigan

    Or call: 517-487-1755
    800-288-5923 (voice)
    Toll-free: 888-330-5595

    Michigan Developmental Disabilities Institute

    The Michigan Developmental Disabilities Institute (MI-DDI) is a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD). MI-DDI is part of a network of 67 UCEDDs in the U.S. and its territories. The Institute's mission is to contribute to the development of inclusive communities  and quality of life for people with disabilities and their families through a culturally-sensitive, statewide program of training and education, community support and services, research, and sharing of information.

    For more information, visit the Michigan Developmental Disabilities Institute.

    Michigan Developmental Disabilities Institute Leonard N. Simons Bldg
    4809 Woodward Avenue, Suite 268
    Detroit, MI 48202

    MI-DDI Email:
    Voice/TTY: 313-577-2654
    Toll-free: 888-978-4334
    Fax: (313) 577-3770

  • The Social Security Administration has three basic sources of income: payroll taxes, federal income taxes on a small portion of SSA benefits and interest paid to the SSA trust funds. U.S. Treasury general funds pay for SSI.