Disability, General

Supporting the Americans with Disabilities Act

July 27, 2015 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: August 19, 2021

Woman in wheelchair smiling using smartphoneSocial Security is committed to the principles and spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to improve the lives of our beneficiaries and our employees who have one or more disabilities.

You may not like to think about the possibility of becoming disabled. However, if sometime in the future you find that you’re unable to work because you have a disabling condition that’s expected to last at least one year or result in death, then the thought will become a reality that you need to address.

When people become disabled under the strict statutory definition Social Security must follow, Social Security helps them meet their basic needs and sustain a higher quality of life. Our disability program provides financial and medical benefits for those who qualify, to pay for doctors’ visits, medicines, and treatments. It’s important to note that twenty-year-olds have a one in four chance of needing our disability programs before they reach retirement age.

We pay disability benefits through two programs: the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The SSDI program provides benefits to people who are disabled or blind, and who worked and contributed to the Social Security trust fund as required by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act. The SSI program makes cash assistance payments to people who are aged, blind, and disabled, who have limited income and resources. The SSI program is financed by general tax revenues, not the Social Security trust funds.

Our disability programs continue to be a mainstay in the lives of many people – people just like you. What makes their otherwise similar stories unique is that they live with debilitating conditions that inhibit their ability to work. Social Security disability beneficiaries are among the most severely impaired people in the country.

Our Faces and Facts of Disability webpage highlights the real life stories of people who have disabilities. We invite you to learn the facts about the disability insurance program, and see and hear these stories of hardship and perseverance.

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About the Author

Phil Gambino, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Communications


  1. Debra

    I applied for ssi and or ssdi a couple years ago and was denied both times.I left work in 2008(layed off) & moved to TX. 2009.May of that year I broke my ankle in two places & doctor told me after several visits to keep it elevated and compresses on it(did that) for months and into 2 years without very much relief as I had no insurance,at the time of his visits(paid him though). Then applied to Tx. Dars & they wanted expert X-Rays of my situation and was deemed by their doctor of referral that I had to have an ankle fusement operation-which I did and was very painful and long period of trying to recooperate.The operation did more harm than good did not fix the problem as intended to.Doctor disabled me ,100% as not being able to stand for very long ,hip problems aching all the time ,depress,and he is no longer practicing any longewr because of his age. Then Dars sent me to another specialist for X-Rays and he confirmed that the operation did not take right andThe operation I received hadn’t been done for over 6 years .ago.He then said he could do another operation,but there would be no gaureentee that I would be any better so I decided that I have and am suffering enough from the !st. operatin to go thru that again with no garentee .So still in pain ,not able to work for 7 yrs. at the age of 60 & 8mo. old,and emotionally very depressed also.What can I do.SSI office said I can’t collect because my husband makes over the income limit,this was my earnigs,not his & worked darn hard for it ,at Ak. on fihing boats,and driving trucks,working at mines,mechanical helper,and other jobs ,please explain why I’m not eligible. Thank you,Debra.

  2. Karen

    I worked 40 years and recently became disabled and have been approved for benefits. I have legal custody of my 3 grandchildren now 8, 10 and 12. I’ve had custody for 5 years now, I pay all expenses and am responsible for these children as if I was their actual mother, actually more than the biological parents. When I went to apply for benefits I was told my legal custody doesn’t matter but if I were a step parent, with no legal papers, I could receive benefits for these children. When I asked why I was told stepparents pay 50%. Well I pay 100%! I found a Social Security Bulletin Vol 71, No. 1, 2011, A Profile of Social Security Child Beneficiaries and Their Families: Sociodemographic and Economic Characteristics, Table 1 clearly states; “Eligible Parent” can also be a grandparent if the child is under the grandparent’s legal guardianship. SOURCE: SSA 2010b. When I spoke with the local office they refused to take the time to apply because I would be denied. I need to know how to pursue this.

    • Ray F.

      Hi Karen, thank you for your comment. Under current law, Social Security can only pay benefits to grandchildren if certain conditions are met. In addition to providing for more than 50% of their support as you are doing now, the biological parents of the children must be deceased or disabled, or you must have legally adopted them. See “Benefits For Grandchildren” for more information.
      However, you have the right to file an application for benefits for your grandchildren and receive an official denial of your claim from Social Security, which will provide you appeals rights, if in case you wish to seek legal advice to verify our decision.
      For more information and to make an appointment, please call our 1-800-772-1213 toll free number. Representatives are available Monday to Friday, between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. You will experience shorter waiting time if you call later in the week. We hope this helps!

      • Karen

        Thank You For your response. I’m still confused why SS bulletin vol 71 states an eligible parent is a grandparent with legal custody then the other information contradicts that bulletin. I also don’t understand why a biological parent must be deceased or disabled if they are not a part of the child’s life.

    • Robbin

      Wow, going through the same thing. I am a “working disabled” that entered into a custody arrangement with my youngest son so that he could go into the USMC back in 2010. He was declared disabled by the Federal government. We share custody. He has a TBI, Epilepsy, and PTSD< from a work related injury and declared 90% disabled. My granddaughter was born out of wedlock and the mother lost custody after being homeless. She is bi-polar and absolutely no work history. She has never filed for SSI so there is no determination. I was told today I would have to adopt her. I do not understand why I have to adopt my grandchild to get help for her when I already hold legal custody. Being as my son is disabled and I am considered an "eligible parent" by federal law, I am dumbfounded by the double-standard that "both parents" have to be disabled. The mother does not support the child and has another child. She collects state welfare benefits. I cannot get help feeding her because I have assets. I have reason to believe my son's disability is so significant he may not be able to understand the financial needs of his Veteran Disability Award. The VA has not processed his claim for his children and I cannot get him to do so, and I have tried repeatedly.

  3. Helen

    My son is 56 years old and has worked since he was 15 until the last 3 years. He lost his job with Mental Health when they went private. He has been diagnosed with Diabetes and has not been able to afford good health care. This has caused his body to deteriorate to the point that he is not able to work. He is working parttime as a pizza delivery person and they are very patient with him on days that he cannot seem to make it. Is there any way he can receive any benefits? Thank you!

    • Ray F.

      Helen, we are sorry to hear about your son’s difficulties. Social Security pays only for total disability — no benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability. Disability benefits are paid to people who are unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last one year or more or to result, end in death. We pay disability benefits through two programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is a needs-based program that pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are based on earnings and are not subject to income and resource limits. If you think your son is disabled under our rules, you can help him apply for disability online.

  4. Dorothy C.

    I am writing on behalf of my grand daughter. SHE IS 8 years old And was born at Shands she were born with 4 hokes in heart heart she had open heart surgery but the problem is not resolved she also has Respertory breathing difficulty which one side of her lungs has blood and she has trouble breathing. When walking ,reading or talking she has been to Shands hospital 6 times to try and help correct the problems other words she has Congenital heart failure. SHE ON HER 7 trip back to the hospital for surgery to try to open her tubes to help her breath better My question is why can’t she get disability? Has been denied 3 times.this child condition may improve some but she has been struggling to breathe and cannot do what normal kids do .

    • James L.

      Dorothy, we are sorry to hear about your granddaughter’s health. Please keep in mind that the Social Security Act sets out a very strict definition of disability. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability — the condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 1 year or result in death. You or her parents can file an appeal on behalf of your granddaughter, but you must file your appeal within 60 days from the date you received the denial notice. You can file her appeal online. For more information on the appeals process, please read our publication ”The Appeals Process”.

  5. Teresa

    I am disabled but I do recent years of income, my question is Can I collect disability on my husbands Social Security?

    • James L.

      Thanks for your question, Teresa. In certain cases, the spouse and children of a disabled worker may be able to receive family benefits. In order to qualify for your husband’s disability benefits, you must be at least 62 years of age and collecting a lower Social Security benefit based on your own earnings record. The spouse benefit amount will be permanently reduced by a percentage based on the number of months up to your full retirement age.

  6. Debbie H.

    In 1980 I was told I had Multiple Sclerosis. I was a stay home Mother for my children. I had no signs of a disability until about 8 years ago. I was a “stay at home Mom” to my 4 children. They are all grown now and I’ve tried to apply for any assistance and have been turned down. it seems that a “stay at home Mom” is nothing in the eyes of the government. There are teens and 20-30 something’s that qualify with a splinter, but someone who is paraplegic and in a wheelchair as I am, is ineligible. I’m 63 and would like to be able to feel there is help out there. Where do I go?

    • James L.

      Debbie, we’re very sorry to hear about your current health condition. In order to be insured for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you had to have earned at least 20 quarters of coverage in the last 10 years. SSDI benefits are based on earnings and not subject to income and resources. If you do not have enough credits to be eligible for SSDI benefits, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The SSI program is a needs-based program that pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources. SSI benefits also are payable to people 65 and older without disabilities, who meet the financial limits.

      You also have the right to file an appeal within 60 days from the date you received your letter explaining our decision. If your application was denied for medical reasons, you can file an appeal online. If you need help with filing your appeal, please contact your local Social Security office.

  7. Sylvia

    I am not such a supporter of SSI benefits. As a social worker who works for the Early Intervention program in NYC evaluating children under the age of 3 years; I see many parent’s collecting SSI benefits for their children who are speech impaired and learning disabled. These children are not eligible to work so why are they receiving benefits? I can see an Autistic child who is severe in his/her diagnosis and will never be able to work receiving the benefit or a child who is wheelchair bound or has a chronic medical condition receiving it. Parent’s want to keep their children disabled just so they can receive the benefit. Does this not deplete the system?

    • HunterSThompson

      Because it impairs their ability to go through school and learn properly and , for parents with low income, help support some of the medical costs/home mods needed.
      Also, your statement is as though they get the benefit for life. Not true. Read some of the SSI Spotlight on this ssa.gov webpage

  8. bettyg

    on my 1st ssdi claim, admin law judge denied me; lawyer asked for a copy of the hearing tape promptly so he could prepare a brief to go to appeals council.

    ssdi/dds/alj staff NEVER sent him or me a copy of this tape. so lawyer NEVER sent a brief to AC.

    then lawyer quit me 4 yrs. into this after my 2nd ssdi claim was filed.

    i waited 2.5 yrs. for AC to review my COMPLETE file.

    lawyer sent a copy to all parties saying he was no longer my lawyer and would NOT be receiving any compensation for anything.

    so AC didn’t have to REVIEW MY FILE since lawyer DIDN’T FILE A BRIEF, so they just looked over aljudge’s denial and agreed. WHY?

    i also asked alj’s office for a copy of my 1st taped hearing; no one acted nor did AC do anything to help me or replied.

    i had 2nd aljudge hearing by teleconference representing myself. he said it would take MONTHS before i heard anything. SURPRISE…HE APPROVED ME in 1 wk. after 5 yrs. going thru all this hell.

    however, since i had to file 2nd ssdi claim, it didn’t go back to ORIGINAL dates i was disabled; started from time of 2nd ssdi claim!

    anyway, i’m complaining because my 1st case was in AC 2.5 yrs. on a shelf; then they DIDN’T look at my 2″ medical files full of documentation and SUPPORTIVE RFC, residual function capacity forms from several drs. grrr!

    i also feel it would be helpful to explain WHY DUPLICATE FORMS are sent over & over; what is the reasoning for this. please have an ARTICLE addressing this!
    bettyg, iowa

    • bettyg

      james, ssdi leader,

      you/your staff have NOT replied to my request for info detailed in the above; i’d appreciate an answer since you/other staff members have ANSWERED other people’s replies.

      thank you very much 😉

      bettyg, iowa…5 yrs. to be approved for ssdi benefits after working 30.5 yrs.

      • bettyg

        ssdi staff,

        STILL WAITING for you to reply to my 1st note above … thank you as you did reply to all others asking questions.

        bettyg, iowa

        • HunterSThompson

          They answered with general information. Obviously they can not look in to your specific claim with out personal info , which I hope you would not provide here. The answers that others got pertain to you as well.
          and not to be crass, but as far as not getting your records, sounds to me that , by your own words that your lawyer didn’t request them … so they cant provide something that wasn’t asked for. You can request them yourself under the FOIA act, it cost 10 or 25 for a cd of your medical files. im not sure of the exact price.

  9. eliedith

    why doesnt medicare cover personal assistant services? i think it is unfair that one has to be medicaid eligible to get a personal aide.

    • Lorenzo D.

      Thank you for your question. To get specific information about Medicare and Medicaid, please call the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at 1-877-267-2323 (TTY Toll-Free: 866-226-1819). In addition, you may be eligible to receive social services from the state in which you live. These services include, free meals, housekeeping help, transportation or help with other problems. You can get information about services in your area from your state or local social services or welfare office. We hope this helps.

      • eliedith

        thank u

    • kedir a.


  10. Sandra J.

    Back in the year 1974 I was in a severe motorcycle accident which, due to head trauma caused me to become comatose and have seizures. I am currently taking medication for my seizures but I still have seizures. I cannot work because of my seizures and have applied for S.S. for the last eleven years and have been denied all along. I have gone to hearings and have been denied because the S.S. judge says I don’t have sufficient proof to be approved. I have hospital records, I have prescription medication records, I have neurologist records, I have eye witnesses, and I even have a recording of a seizures and the judge said it could be me acting and that it was not sufficient proof. What should I do invite him to come stay at my home and witness it himself? Any suggestions would be helpful.

    • James L.

      Sandra, we are very sorry to hear about your current health condition, and we understand your frustration. You have the option to appeal the hearing decision. You may ask the Appeals Council to review your case within 60 days of receiving the decision from the judge. You cannot file this type of appeal online. If you need help requesting a review, please contact your local Social Security office, your local hearing office, or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

      A representative familiar with Social Security’s programs can provide a valuable service to you. However, the decision whether or not to seek the services of a representative (attorney or other qualified person) is up to you. More information about representatives can be found in our publication, “Your Right to Representation.”

      If your disability claim is not approved after you appeal, be sure to apply for Social Security retirement benefits when you turn 62.

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