Important: We updated this article in April 2023 to make sure all info below is both current and correct. It isn’t easy for stay-at-home parents to qualify for Social Security disability benefits — but help is still available for some. To qualify for monthly disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), you must meet medical and non-medical eligibility requirements. If you’re facing serious financial hardship due to a disability, you likely already meet some or all non-medical eligibility requirements. One example would be if you’re recently widowed and have no other income sources available for your family.
Medical Eligibility Requirements for Stay-at-Home Parents Claiming Disability Benefits
Because each SSA-administered disability program lists different qualifications, your circumstances dictate which benefits you may receive. However, both programs use the same medical requirements listed below to screen every applicant:
- First, your condition must meet the SSA’s definition of a disability;
- Second, your disability must be expected to last for 12 months or result in your death;
- Third, you must receive ongoing treatment from an acceptable medical provider for your condition; and
- Lastly, you must prove you cannot work or perform your usual job tasks directly as a result of your health problems.
Stay-at-home parents and homemakers who meet the above requirements are much more likely to qualify for disability benefits. Next, we’ll explain non-medical requirements for each program that may help stay-at-home parents with disabilities make ends meet.
How Stay-at-Home Parents May Qualify for Supplemental Security Income
Homemakers and stay-at-home parents who haven’t worked for five years or longer may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The SSA uses strict income and asset limits to determine whether applicants meet non-medical eligibility requirements for monthly SSI benefits. You must meet all the non-medical SSI eligibility requirements listed below before you apply in order to qualify:
- Blind applicants must receive less than $2,260 in monthly income to qualify for SSI. And if you’re disabled (but not blind), your monthly income must be less than $1,470 in 2023. Unearned income includes unemployment checks, Social Security retirement benefits, alimony and child support payments, gifts, free food and shelter, etc.
- Next, single parents must have less than $2,000 in countable resources (the upper limit for married couples is $3,000). Countable resources include your retirement, checking, and savings account balances, and anything you own and can easily sell for cash. Homeowners may still qualify for SSI, since the SSA doesn’t count your house and one vehicle towards your resource limits.
- You must also be a U.S. citizen or non-citizen who falls under the Department of Homeland Security’s “qualified alien” category.
Once you’ve met these qualifications, the SSA reviews your condition to ensure it meets their very strict disability requirements. If you’re approved for SSI, your check amount may vary depending on which state you live in. The maximum SSI payment amount is $914 for individuals and $1,371 for couples. That said, several U.S. states provide supplemental benefits. (See if your state offers supplemental SSI benefits.)
Stay-at-Home Parents May Have a Harder Time Qualifying for SSDI
To personally qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits, you must be unable to work for health reasons and have enough work history. But if your spouse (or former spouse) dies, you may qualify for SSDI based on their work history. For widowed or divorced stay-at-home parents to qualify for up to 50% of a former spouse’s SSDI, they must:
- Have children under age 16 living in the same home, OR
- Be at least 50 years old and disabled yourself, OR
- Be at least 62 years old and able to work but not drawing a larger Social Security payment on their own record, AND
- Not yet remarried before age 60.
For you to personally meet all technical SSDI eligibility requirements using your own Social Security work credits, you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen who’s over 18, but haven’t yet reached your full retirement age (67).
- Have worked 5 in the last 10 years if you’re over age 30. (Younger disabled stay-at-home parents can check their work credit requirements here.)
- Have paid Social Security payroll taxes while working during the last decade.
- Not currently be drawing any regular Social Security benefits.
If the SSA approves your SSDI claim, your monthly payment amount varies based on your previous highest earning history. So if your salary totaled over $140k for several years, you may qualify for the maximum SSDI payment of $3,627 per month. In 2023, the average monthly SSDI benefit pays $1,458.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Filing an application through a Social Security attorney makes stay-at-home parents nearly 3x more likely to get benefits. Disability laws vary by state, and filing a claim can be difficult as well as confusing. Every year, the SSA denies 4 in 5 people who apply for benefits for the first time. In fact, the SSA denies some claims just for basic paperwork mistakes!
Sign up for a free phone call for claim help today. It’s the fastest, easiest way to get advice that applies to your specific situation.
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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.