That is an interesting question. While a person can receive money if he or she is disabled and not able to work, the technical answer to the question is both “yes and no.” The reason for this is that the Social Security Administration actually has two different benefit programs for disabled individuals and each program has different requirements for obtaining benefits.
It is possible for someone who has never worked to obtain disability benefits under a program called SSI or “Supplemental Security Income.” The SSI program covers adults who have never worked as well as minor children. However, if someone has never worked, it is not possible for someone to collect benefits under the other program, called the Social Security Disability program (also called SSDI, short for Social Security Disability Insurance, and also sometimes called Title II benefits).
The money for both the Social Security Disability program and the SSI program comes from the Social Security taxes each person pays as part of his or her payroll taxes. All Social Security money comes from taxes each working individual pays into the Social Security program along with some tax money also paid by employers. This shows up on your paycheck or W-2 form as Social Security taxes, also sometimes called FICA taxes, which the government takes out out each pay period. If you retire or become disabled, you are eligible to collect a certain amount of disability money. If you are collecting SSDI benefits, that amount is based on how much you have paid into Social Security through your taxes. If you have not paid much money into the system because you have not worked much or have worked sporadically, you will likely not be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, or your benefit money will be a very small amount.
Fortunately, people who become disabled but have never worked are covered under the SSI program if they do not qualify for Social Security Disability. The SSI program provides benefits to people who are not eligible for Social Security Disability or who receive a very low SSDI benefit amount. If you are eligible for only a small amount of money under the SSDI benefit program, you may actually be eligible to receive compensation through both programs.
To qualify for either program, a person must prove to the Social Security Administration or SSA that his or her disability meets its criteria for payment of benefits. The SSA generally requires that to be eligible for benefits someone must have a medical condition that is considered serious and is expected to last, or has already lasted, at least a year. Additionally, the medical condition must prevent the person from working in gainful employment. Although the SSA does grant benefits to many new people who apply each year, navigating the paperwork and proving disability can sometimes be confusing and difficult. Working with a Social Security attorney or someone who can advocate on your behalf can make the process easier and less intimidating.