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The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two types of disability benefits which young adults ages 18-25 may be eligible for: Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits[2]. Though it may be a bit more difficult for them to win these benefits compared to older adults, young adults (‘YA’) are eligible and can receive SSD and/or SSI benefits.


YAs that have established a sufficient earnings record may submit a claim for SSD benefits once they are unable to perform ‘substantial gainful activity’ (SGA). SGA is considered any income over $1040.00 per month for 2013, though SSA recalculates this figure every year.

YAs who do not have a sufficient earnings record may apply for SSI. To submit a claim, you must have resources valued under $2000.00 as an individual or $3000.00 if you are married (see‎ for more information) and must be unable to perform SGA. Because of the age range that we are focusing on in this post, many YAs may find that they are able to submit an application for SSI instead of SSD, due to the lack of a sufficient earnings record.

YAs who meet the application criteria for SSD and SSI benefits may submit applications for both. Please note, however, that if approved for both, there are multiple factors that may reduce a person’s SSI benefit, such as living arrangements or your SSD benefit amount.

What do You Need to Support an SSD or SSI Application?

Both types of claims are primarily substantiated by medical evidence of disability, i.e. being unable to work/perform SGA. These include:

  • Medical records
  • Reports or statements from a treating provider
  • Medical evaluations
  • Functional capacity examinations

Other forms of evidence that indicate an inability to cope in a work environment may be helpful, including:

  • Any unsuccessful work attempt*
  • Documentation indicating participation in a Special Education program or program for those with learning disabilities
  • Statement from parents, school counselor, or former supervisor.

Is It Really More Difficult for YAs to Get Disability Benefits?

YA’s confront the same definition of disability and the same challenges to prove disability as all other persons who SSA defines as young, ages 18-45.  The SSA Act specifically uses one definition of disability for all persons from age 18 to retirement age (which is 65-67 depending on date of birth).  However, SSA regulations make certain assumptions about the ability of older individuals, such as those 50 and older, to make the transition to different types of work; this can make it easier for individuals approaching that age group to be found disabled.

Even though it may be more difficult for YAs to prove that they cannot work than older individuals, it is certainly not impossible.  If you meet the application requirement and have sufficient medical documentation, it makes the task easier.

Though we cannot guarantee a successful outcome for any particular claim, we represent clients in this age group and have assisted numerous YAs win Social Security disability benefits. If you need legal representation to help you file your claim, schedule a consultation with our disability attorneys today.