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Social Security Disability Income for Deaf People


Updated May 07, 2014

What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

SSDI (also known as Social Security Disability) is a monthly check that goes to people with disabilities who have worked long enough to qualify for it. Disabled people who lose their jobs often turn to SSDI until they can find new employment.

Can Deaf People get SSDI?

A deaf person can get SSDI as long as the deafness meets the Social Security requirement that the medical condition last at least a year. In addition, the deaf person must meet two Social Security tests: the Recent Work test and the Duration of Work Test. The criteria for both tests vary depending on a person's age.

For example, for a late deafened person in their 30s, the Recent Work test is passed if the person became deaf in the quarter they turned 31 or later, and also if they had worked at least five years out of a 10-year period that ended with when the person became deaf. For someone who was born deaf, to pass the Duration of Work Test they only need to have worked 1.5 years.

In addition, the deaf person's deafness must be considered "severe." Deafness appears on a list of impairments that automatically qualifies a person as disabled. Social Security has a "Blue Book," Disability Evaluation Under Social Security, that has a section, 2.00 Special Senses and Speech - Adult. Sub-section 2.08 on Hearing Impairments states:

2.08 Hearing Impairments (hearing not restorable by a hearing aid) manifested by:

A. Average hearing threshold sensitivity for air conduction of 90 decibels or greater, and for bone conduction to corresponding maximal levels, in the better ear, determined by the simple average of hearing threshold levels at 500, 1000, and 2000hz. (see 2.00B1); or

B. Speech discrimination scores of 40% or less in the better ear.

How Long Does it Take to Get SSDI After Applying?

The Social Security website says there are three ways to apply. A deaf person can apply online, file a disability claim in person, or apply over the phone by talking to a Social Security representative. Qualifying for SSDI does not mean that a deaf person can expect to get a check the next month. The Social Security website warns in bold letters that it can take as long as five months to begin receiving SSDI checks.

How Much Money Can a Deaf Person Get Through SSDI?

Pay attention to the annual Social Security Statement that arrives in the mail. It will state how much in disability benefits a person is entitled to, based on their earnings to date. This information appears in a bolded line, "Disability, You have earned enough credits to qualify for benefits. If you become disabled right now... Your payment would be about..$xxxx a month."

How Long Can a Deaf Person Get SSDI?

Unlike unemployment benefits, SSDI does not have a time limit and continues as long as the person meets the disability criteria. The deaf person's eligibility may be reviewed periodically to see if the deaf person still qualifies as disabled. SSDI can also stop if a person earns too much (you can work while receiving SSDI, as long as it is below a limit).

Related blog post:
Deaf Helped or Hurt by SSDI?


Disability Benefits, accessed August 2008.

What Can Cause Benefits to Stop?, accessed August 2008.

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