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Presumptive Disability

For many seeking disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA), the monthly payments provide a financial lifeline in otherwise stressful times. Unfortunately, from the time you apply to the time you get approved for benefits, years might have passed. Years that you were unable to work and earn an income.

In recognition of the amount of time you might have to wait and the financial hardship that this wait may cause, SSA started a process that allows immediate payments to commence for applicants who will likely qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits once the process is complete. These are called presumptive disability benefits because it is presumed that the individual will have his or her disability application approved. Please note that these benefits are not available to individuals who apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

There are some conditions that commonly qualify for presumptive disability, including: total blindness; amputation of a leg at the hip; stroke more than three months ago that resulted in difficulty walking or using a hand or arm; total deafness; Down syndrome; cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or muscular atrophy with difficulty speaking, walking, or using hands or arms; amputation of two limbs; severe intellectual disorder; spinal cord injury; end stage renal disease that requires dialysis; AIDS or symptomatic HIV infection; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); low birth weight; and bed confinement and immobility without a walker, crutches, or a wheelchair.

Local SSA offices can make presumptive disability determinations in a lot of cases. Other conditions require confirmation from reliable sources, like social workers, doctors, or school personnel. If you are initially denied presumptive benefits, your file moves to Disability Determination Services (DDS) where they have greater ability to grant presumptive disability benefits, including granting them for conditions that were not mentioned above.

Presumptive benefits will last until SSA makes a decision regarding your disability claim or for up to six months, whichever comes first. If SSA ultimately denies your disability claim, you are not responsible for paying back the presumptive benefits you collected.

You do not need to file a separate application for presumptive benefits, since they will be considered automatically when you file for SSI. If you are facing immediate financial need, like homelessness or a medical crisis, you may be able to receive an emergency advance payment from SSA as early as the month you apply for SSI. You will eventually need to pay this amount back to SSA, either in one lump-sum payment or over a period of time through deductions from future benefits.