Social Security

The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers two programs that provide benefits based on disability: the Social Security disability insurance program (title II of the Social Security Act (the Act)) and the supplemental security income (SSI) program (title XVI of the Act).

Title II provides for payment of disability benefits to individuals who are "insured" under the Act by virtue of their contributions to the Social Security trust fund through the Social Security tax on their earnings, as well as to certain disabled dependents of insured individuals. Title XVI provides for SSI payments to individuals (including children under age 18) who are disabled and have limited income and resources.

The Act and SSA's implementing regulations prescribe rules for deciding if an individual is "disabled." SSA's criteria for deciding if someone is disabled are not necessarily the same as the criteria applied in other Government and private disability programs.



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Definition of Disability

For all individuals applying for disability benefits under title II, and for adults applying under title XVI, the definition of disability is the same. The law defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) 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.

Who can get disability benefits under Social Security?

Under the Social Security disability insurance program (title II of the Act), there are three basic categories of individuals who can qualify for benefits on the basis of disability:

•A disabled insured worker under full retirement age.
•An individual disabled since childhood (before age 22) who is a dependent of a parent entitled to title II disability or retirement benefits or was a dependent of a deceased insured parent.
•disabled widow or widower, age 50-60 if the deceased spouse was insured under Social Security.
Under title XVI, or SSI, there are two basic categories under which a financially needy person can get payments based on disability:

•An adult age 18 or over who is disabled.
•child (under age 18) who is disabled.

What is a "Medically Determinable Impairment"?

A medically determinable physical or mental impairment is an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. A physical or mental impairment must be established by medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings-not only by the individual's statement of symptoms.

The Disability Determination Process

Most disability claims are initially processed through a network of local Social Security field offices and State agencies (usually called disability determination services, or DDSs). Subsequent appeals of unfavorable determinations may be decided in the DDSs or by administrative law judges in SSA's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.

How is the disability determination made?

A. SSA’s regulations provide for disability evaluation under a procedure known as the "sequential evaluation process." For adults, this process requires sequential review of the claimant's current work activity, the severity of his or her impairment(s), a determination of whether his or her impairment(s) meets or medically equals a listing (see Part III of this guide), the claimant's residual functional capacity, his or her past work, and his or her age, education, and work experience. For children applying for SSI, the process requires sequential review of the child's current work activity (if any), the severity of his or her impairment(s), and an assessment of whether his or her impairment(s) results in marked and severe functional limitations. If an adult or child is found disabled or not disabled at any point in the evaluation, the evaluation does not continue.

For further information, please contact the California Social Security Website here.

SSI Payee Assistance

Should you require help finding a payee for your loved one.  Below are a few options:

Alameda County Substitute Payee Program Edit this page  History Alameda County Substitute Payee Program:

Money management for people with psychiatric diagnoses only. Must be on SSI or SSA. Clients cannot have a private savings or checking account and can only be referred through Alameda County mental health clinics or hospitals. Clients must have a county contact person (case manager) following their case. Will accept calls from therapists or social workers for packets to be mailed out. Spanish. Wheelchair accessible. 

Address  P.O. Box 129,
San Leandro, CA  94577 

Phone:  510-383-1582
Fax:    510-383-1583   
Hours  M-F: 8am-5pm  


Alameda County Public Guardian-Conservator

The Public Guardian-Conservator manages Probate and mental health (Lanterman-Petris-Short, known as LPS) conservatorships for Alameda County residents who have been adjudicated by Superior Court either to lack capacity to manage finances and/or health care or to be gravely disabled to mental illness or substance abuse. The Public Guardian-Conservator works in partnership with Adult Protective Services (APS) to protect elders and dependent adults who are victims of financial abuse or exploitation and who are unable to protect themselves. For more information, call (510) 577-3585.