Disability Advocacy Organizations
These organizations protect and advocate for the civil and human rights of people with disabilities.
- Florida Independent Living Council, Inc.
- National Council on Independent Living
- Florida Center for Inclusive Communities
- Florida’s Voice on Developmental Disabilities
- The Arc of Florida
- Family Care Council Florida
- Family Network on Disabilities
- Rehab Centers
Protection & Advocacy Organization
The Florida state disability protection and advocacy (P&A) agency is Disability Rights Florida (DRF). DRF is part of the nation’s federally-funded P&A system. It provides help to people with disabilities in Florida to expand and defend their rights, including supporting self-advocacy groups and legal assistance. DRF is part of the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN).
Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC)
ADRCs are the main points of access for long-term supports and services for older adults and people with disabilities, including home health care and assistive technology. Florida Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs)
State Medicaid Agency
Other State and Non-Profit Agencies
These agencies provide help for people with disabilities and their families and caregivers. Disability services are often free or low-cost.
- Florida Department of Health
- Florida Department of Children and Families
- Florida Disability and Health Program
- Florida Association of Centers for Independent Living
- Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
- Bright Expectations – Florida Department of Health
- Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology
- Services to Floridians with Disabilities – Department of Education
Crisis intervention and counseling for people who are in need of immediate help or need someone to talk to. If you or a loved one is experiencing emotional distress, these agencies are ready to offer free and confidential help. Common concerns include but are not limited to mental illness, suicide, intellectual or developmental disability, physical disability, substance abuse, grief, sexual assault, and family violence.
- Florida Suicide Hotlines
- Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition
- Suicide Prevention – Florida Department of Health
- Crisis Center of Tampa Bay
- Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center, Inc. (SPARCC)
- Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV)
- Crisis Hotline of Central Florida
- Switchboard Miami
- Personal Enrichment Through Mental Health Services
Services for Senior Citizens
Free or low-cost resources and disability services for senior citizens and their loved ones to promote successful community living.
- Florida Department of Elder Affairs
- Florida Area Agencies on Aging
- Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)
- Statewide Medicaid Managed Care Long-Term Care Program
- Community Care for the Elderly (CCE) Program
- Home Care for the Elderly (HCE) Program
- Florida Senior Legal Services
- Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
- Respite for Elders Living in Everyday Families (RELIEF)
- Senior Community Services Employment Program (SCSEP)
Regional Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Center
Provides information, training, and guidance on disability access and Florida disability services. One of 10 regional centers in the ADA National Network.
- 211 SwitchBoard
- Center for Parent Information and Resources
- Florida Commission on Human Relations
- Florida Grassroots Self Advocacy
- Florida’s Positive Behavior Support Project
- National Disability Rights Network (formerly NAPAS)
- Partnership for Work
- The Family Café
Latest findings show that over 56 million adults and children disabled adults and children reside in the US and sleep can be an extremely difficult issue for that population. Please review this comprehensive guide to help increase awareness about disabilities and sleep including expert advice for on sleep products and bedroom setup for those with disability, curated resources for all of the five disability categories, caregiver resources and much more.
These organizations provide free legal assistance for low-income individuals, including help with accessing Social Security and Medicaid benefits.
- Florida Legal Services, Inc.
- Florida Senior Legal Services
- Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida
- Legal Services of North Florida
- Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association
- Florida Rural Legal Services
- Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Inc.
- Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc.
- Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc.
- Northwest Florida Legal Services
- Gulfcoast Legal Services
- Legal Aid Foundation Tallahassee
14th Amendment should be used to ensure equal protection for those with disabilities
Any American, at any stage of life, could join the nearly one-in-five of our citizens who has a disability. If people with disabilities were a formally recognized minority group, they would constitute the largest minority population in the United States.
But they are not, and that presents some difficult legal issues. When it comes to employment opportunities, educational equality and access to fair benefits, people with disabilities can lack essential constitutional protections.
Did you know that it is legal to pay you less than minimum wage if you have a disability? And you can be denied a job opportunity if an employer has to make an accommodation that is deemed “unreasonable.”
People with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty and far more likely to be unemployed.
People are not disabled by physical or cognitive impairments. Rather, architectural barriers, societal attitudes and discriminatory policies contribute to the status of those with disabilities.
How our government and we, as a society, address the issues that confront people with disabilities and their families—from transportation, to employment, to education, to full and equal access to services—defines us as a people.
We have made progress in the past 50 years in the area of disability rights. New assistive technologies have made it possible for people with disabilities to use computers, phones, elevators and mass transportation on their own.
And Congress has passed several laws that have protected the rights of those with disabilities, including the Architectural Barriers Act in 1968, the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1970, the Rehabilitation Act in 1973, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1975, the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 and the Fair Housing Amendments Act in 1988.
Thanks to these laws, individuals with disabilities have greater access to buildings, public transportation, housing and education. All these laws led up to the crowning legislative achievement: The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990. The ADA prohibits discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations and telecommunications.
In spite of this progress, constitutional limits protecting people with disabilities remain.
The 14th Amendment, and especially its Equal Protection Clause, has been a powerful tool in the battle for civil rights in our courts ever since the 1954 Brown v Board of Education ruling that determined schools segregated by race were unconstitutional. While the 14th Amendment has been used to uphold the rights of women and minorities, it has not proven as effective in the disability rights movement, due mainly to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling more than 30 years ago.
In 1985, the Supreme Court ruled in City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc. that a permit for group home for mentally disabled people should be granted. But despite the ruling in favor of the home, the court did not find that the mentally disabled were in a class that was historically subjected to discrimination. Therefore, they were not entitled to a stricter level of review under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
This decision has made it much easier for states to pass laws that discriminate against people with disabilities. States have a lower bar to clear when proving that they have a reasonable and rational excuse for not making accommodations for people with disabilities. Many times, showing the added costs and expenses has proved sufficient for the courts.
The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of individuals with disabilities based on statutes. In March of this year, the court ruled 8-0 in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School that a child with disabilities is entitled to more than just a minimal education. But the decision was based on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and not the 14th Amendment.
Several disability rights groups recently sued the New York City subway system over its lack of accessibility. Only 117 of the system’s 472 stations, less than 25 percent, are accessible to people who cannot use stairs. But again, no mention of the 14th Amendment in the complaint. Instead, plaintiffs are claiming violation of the New York City Human Rights Law, which recognizes disability as a protected class and offers broader protections.
While the courts have not yet recognized that rights of people with disabilities are fully protected under the 14th Amendment, the American Bar Association supports legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disabilities akin to existing prohibitions on discrimination based on race, sex, national origin and religion. If stronger legislation, such as the New York City Human Rights Law, is not passed more broadly in America, then judicial action is needed to ensure those with disabilities can function as equal, productive members of society.
It’s time for courts to recognize the rights of people with disabilities. Constitutional protections are required if they are to have true equality. We celebrated the 14th Amendment during Law Day on May 1. We would do well to pursue constitutional protections for those with disabilities so truly all can benefit from America’s commitment to freedom and equal opportunity for all.
By Linda Klein, the senior managing shareholder at Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz and president of the American Bar Association. Follow President Klein on Twitter @LindaKleinLaw or email email@example.com.
These agencies address the specific needs of people with developmental disabilities. They advocate for community inclusion and access to Florida disability services.
- Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, Inc.
- Florida Developmental Disabilities Resources Website
- Agency for Persons with Disabilities
- Familial Dysautonomia Waiver
- iBudget Waiver
- Florida’s Voice on Developmental Disabilities
- The Arc of Florida
- Family Care Council Florida
- Support for students with intellectual disabilities
These agencies address the specific needs of people with mental illness and promote mental health. Some agencies offer free or low-cost group counseling and education programs.
- Mental Health – Florida Department of Children and Families
- State Mental Health Planning Council of Florida
- Florida Council for Community Mental Health
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Florida
- The Mental Health Association of Southwest Florida
- Mental Health Florida
- Mental Health America of East Central Florida
- Mental Health America of Northeast Florida
- Mental Health Association of Central Florida
- Mental Health Association of Southeast Florida
Free or low-cost Florida disability services for people of all ages, including physical therapy, access to employment and education, support for independent living, and assistive technology.
- Centers for Independent Living
- Adult Cystic Fibrosis (ACF) Waiver
- Familial Dysautonomia Waiver
- Model Waiver (age 20 and younger)
- Project AIDS Care Waiver
- Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology
Traumatic Brain Injury
Information & resources for individuals with traumatic brain injuries & their loved ones.
- Brain Injury Association of Florida
- Traumatic Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Injury Waiver
- Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Program – Florida Department of Health
- Central Florida Brain Injury Support Group
Addiction and Substance Abuse
Information and resources for people with substance abuse and their loved ones.
- Substance Abuse – Florida Department of Health
- Substance Abuse – Florida Department of Children and Families
- Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association (FADAA)
- Florida Division of Blind Services (DBS)
- Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind (FAASB)
- Florida Deaf/Blind Association
Deaf/Hard of Hearing
- Florida Independent Living Council
- Developmental Disabilities Council
- Family Care Council Florida
- Florida Rehabilitation Council
- Florida Blind Council
- JP Pass Advisory Council
- American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
- Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living
- National Council on Independent Living
Lack of accessible, affordable housing is one of the biggest obstacles to living independently in their communities for people with disabilities of all ages. While the Florida Independent Living Council does not find you a place to live, we hope this information will help you to help yourself. If the questions we have answered do not include your question, please email us!
How do I find a place to live?
If you need a house or an apartment, and are not seeking rental assistance, look for a place to live the same way anyone else would. Check the classified ads in your local newspapers. Check to see if your local grocery store or news stand has apartment-for-rent booklets. Check websites such as www.apartmentfinder.org. All of these ways to look are for “market rate” apartments where the landlord sets the rent based on what he or she can get from the supply of people who can pay. This method works for people earning average or above average income.
If you need wheelchair access, newer apartment complexes (less than 20 years old) are more likely to have step-free entries, wider doorways, kitchens you can get in & out of and room to turn around in the bathroom. This is true because of the Fair Housing Act, a federal law that changed the building standards for multi-family homes (condominiums and apartments). If the building was designed and constructed to take in tenants by March of 1991, then it should have accessibility features. For more specific information about his law, see www.FairHousingFIRST.org
What if I can pay for access modifications but the landlord will not allow it?
As long as you agree to return the house or apartment to the original state, your landlord must allow you to do the modifications. Refusing to allow you to widen a door or install a ramp violates the Fair Housing Act and you can file a complaint. www.FairHousingFIRST.org will tell you how.
What if I don’t earn a lot and need help paying the rent?
If you do not earn an average income, you can find information on rental properties at www.floridahousingsearch.org. This web site provides information on a variety of housing related needs and allows you to search for below rent properties in your community, on line. Another website to utilize is www.floridahousingcorporation.org. In some cases you will have to meet an income range – above a certain amount and below a certain amount – to be allowed to apply to live there. These income ranges are based on the income of the people in that area so each one is different. You can search rental properties throughout the state and you can search by the number of bedrooms/bathrooms, rent range, disability access features, location and distance to public transportation. You should keep in mind that the landlords are the people who enter the information into the websites. Sometimes, they understand disability access and sometimes they don’t. So if you need accessibility because you cannot walk or climb any steps, you need to be sure of the information, so telephone the rental offices before going to look.
What if I am on a fixed income and need a lot of help with rent?
If you have a very limited income – disability benefits for example – you may be eligible for rental assistance or subsidy. Many people call this “Section 8”. What this usually means is that you pay no more than 30% of your income for rent and the rest is paid by a government agency, most often HUD (Housing and Urban Development).
There are two types of HUD subsidies: (1) Project-based and (2) Tenant – based. Project – based subsidies mean that the rent subsidy is tied to a building. Project-based subsidies are paid directly to the owner of the property. The owner then rents units to qualified tenants who usually pay around 30% of their income toward rent. Some units are available specifically for those 62 and older or for people with particular disabilities such as intellectual disabilities. If you want to live in a certain place that you know is subsidized, you can go to that place (sometimes called a “project” or a “highrise”) and apply directly. But keep in mind that you will still have to qualify and be approved which can be a lengthy process.
With “tenant-based” based housing, the rent subsidy is tied to the person instead of a building. If you get this type of rental assistance, you get a voucher – which is like a ticket that you can take to a landlord who accepts it. You pay 30 % of your income toward the rent on privately owned home or apartment that you choose and the voucher pays the rest of the rent, up to a limit set by the state or local housing authority in your area. If you need assistance finding a landlord who will accept the voucher, ask your local housing authority office. A list of housing authority offices can be found under “How do I apply for rental assistance?”
Remember that any government program that helps pay the rent usually has a waiting list because there are many more people in need than places to live. Government programs also have detailed applications that include your credit history and criminal background checks. If you have bad credit, you will need to deal with that problem. If you have been convicted of a felony, you may not ever be eligible to apply. Check with your local housing authority for their specific requirements.
Because rental assistance is in short supply, you first may want to use your own connections. If you cannot afford a place on your own, do you know anyone who might want to share a place? Are there things you can do to help someone else in return for a free or low cost rent?
How do I apply for rental assistance/subsidy?
You apply at the housing authority that runs the program where you live (or want to live). People in need of rental assistance must first place their name on a housing authority waiting list. There may be several housing authorities in your area depending on the population of your county. The housing authority notifies the public when the waiting list is opened. Check for these Public Notices in the legal section of the classified ads in the newspaper that serves the county where you live (or want to live). Applications are given on a first come-first served basis only when the waiting list is open. After your application is received, the housing authority will determine if you are eligible. If you are, you will be placed on the waiting list. Please note that applying does NOT mean that you will be approved. The process involves several steps including providing identification documents, credit check, criminal background check and so forth. Some housing authorities use a lottery system for selecting renters, so it does not mean that you will be excluded if you apply late or that your name will rise to the top of the list in these cases.
Click on the link below to find a list of Housing Authorities in Florida:
Transportation is essential to so many aspects of Independent Living. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 helps protect the civil rights of individuals with disabilities, including the right to accessible and equal access to transportation. The link below will take you to the Disability Rights Florida Transportation page which provides a brief overview of various modes of transportation and provides links and resources for additional information.
Community Transportation Association
1341 G St., NW
Washington, DC 20005
Voice: (202) 628.1480
Fax: (202) 737.9197
This national advocacy organization focuses on transportation for individuals who do not have access to mass transit or private automobiles
Federal Transit Administration
TCR-1, Room 7412
Office of Civil Rights
400 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20590
Voice: (202) 366-366-0153 or
TTY/FIRS: (800) 877-8339
A good source for determining the rights of people with disabilities concerning public transportation, including the regulations concerning paratransit systems.
Note: FTA has information on grants for assisting people with low incomes (including people with disabilities) with transportation. This information is available at: www.fta.dot.gov/wtw/uoft.html. FTA also offers grant programs aimed at reducing transportation barriers by developing transportation services designed to transport welfare recipients and low-income individuals to and from jobs and to develop transportation services for residents of urban centers and rural and suburban areas to suburban employment opportunities. Emphasis is placed on projects that use mass transportation services.
Easter Seals Project ACTION
1425 K Street NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20005
Voice: (800) 659-6428 or (202) 347-3066
Fax: (202) 347-3066
This is a national program that fosters accessible transportation services for people with disabilities. It is administered by the National Easter Seal Society and funded by the Federal Transit Administration
United We Ride
The Department of Transportation, with its partners at the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Education, launched United We Ride–a new five-part initiative–to break down the barriers between programs and set the stage for local partnerships that generate common-sense solutions and deliver A-plus performance for everyone who needs transportation. The website includes information on transportation-focused grant opportunities, state activities, resources, and strategies for coordinating transportation across agencies. A newsletter is also available.
U.S. Department of Transportation
400 Seventh Street SW
Washington, DC 20590
Voice: (202) 366-4011; TTY: (202) 366-2979
Fax: (202) 366-7951
A variety of information on regulations and resources concerning transportation for people with disabilities.
Disability Laws Effecting Education
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act was the first disability civil rights law to be enacted in the United States. It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in programs that receive federal financial assistance, and set the stage for enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Section 504 works together with the ADA and IDEA to protect children and adults with disabilities from exclusion, and unequal treatment in schools, jobs and the community.
- Sample Section 504 Plan and Health Care Plan for a Student with Diabetes
- A Comparison of ADA, IDEA, and Section 504
- A sit-in and demonstrations in San Francisco and Washington DC, in 1977, changed the course of civil rights history, and resulted in the signing of the 1977 Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
- U.S. Department of Education regulations implementing Section 504
- The U.S. Department of Education, Protecting Students with Disabilities: Frequently Asked Questions about Section 504 and the Education of Children with Disabilities.
- The Civil Rights of Students with Hidden Disabilities Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
- U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights Complaint Process
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights, “Your Rights Under Section 504 Of The Rehabilitation Act”
- Federal Agency Section 504 Contacts List
- U.S Department of Justice complaint procedure
- Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD’s Section 504 One-Stop Web Site
- Rehabilitating Section 504 – by the National Council on Disability. February 12, 2003.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the most important piece of civil rights legislation for children with disabilities ever passed in this country. Prior to its passage in 1975, at least one million children with disabilities in the United States were denied any public education, and at least four million more were segregated from their non-disabled peers. IDEA is the primary federal law that governs Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) and the special education process. IDEA guarantees children with disabilities a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). IDEA was reauthorized in 2004 and its implementing regulations were released in August 2006.
DREDF provides trainings on IDEA and related issues for parents and professionals through our federally-funded Parent Training and Information Center.
DREDF IDEA Articles, Papers and Analyses
- A Comparison of ADA, IDEA, and Section 504.
- Mental Health Services for Children with Disabilities: the Story in California.
More Information on the IDEA
- U.S. Department of Education IDEA Home Page
- Family and Advocates Partnership for Education (FAPE) Project
- National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities IDEA Pages
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The landmark 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by employers, public accommodations, state and local governments, public and private transportation, and in telecommunications. DREDF advocates for clients with ADA discrimination claims and represents them in court. We also provide training and education about the ADA, and work to strengthen the law through policy monitoring, development and advocacy.
To see specifics on what businesses must do to meet the requirements of the ADA see our Access Equals Opportunity page.
For more information on laws affecting people with disabilities in education:
Hiring People with Disabilities
( from U.S. Small Business Administration)
As an employer, you can take advantage of various programs that encourage the recruitment and hiring of people with disabilities. This will also make you eligible for tax credits that help cover the cost of accommodations for employees with disabilities. While this is an excellent way to expand and enhance your business, keep in mind that you will need to comply with certain legal requirements concerning the accommodation of employees with disabilities.
If you are a new employer or new to employing people with disabilities, you should start by reading the Guide to Disability Rights Laws. This guide summarizes the major disability laws affecting employers, governments, schools and other organizations.
Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires any employer with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities, unless doing so would cause undue hardship. A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment that enables a person with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.
Explore these resources for more information on how to comply with the ADA.
• Americans with Disabilities Act : A Primer for Small Businesses
Provides an easy-to-read, overview of the basic employment provisions of the ADA as they relate to employees and job applicants.
• Disability Discrimination
Explains how to comply with the ADA’s nondiscrimination standards when hiring and employing people with disabilities.
• Small Employers and Reasonable Accommodations
Offers answers to key questions facing small businesses in connection with reasonable accommodations. Read about the obligations of both employers and individuals with disabilities, and review the limits on how far employers must go in providing reasonable accommodations.
Hiring People with Disabilities
Now that you are familiar with ADA, you are ready to take the next steps in employing people with disabilities. The following resources will help you understand the ins and outs of hiring people with disabilities.
• Do’s and Don’ts of Hiring Persons With Disabilities
Provides a checklist for how to comply with ADA standards.
• Disability.gov Employing People with Disabilities
• Links to resources for recruiting, employing and accommodating people with disabilities in the workplace.
• Hiring Service Disabled Veterans
Covers the benefits and tax incentives for employers hiring veterans with service-connected disabilities.
• Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
Offers a free consulting service designed to increase the employability of people with disabilities by providing individualized worksite accommodations solutions and compliance with the ADA.
If you have decided to employ people with special needs, you must be sure that they will have a comfortable work environment. These Worksite Accommodation Fact Sheets will help you ensure that all your employees have a safe and comfortable work environment.
Federal Tax Incentives
Employing people with disabilities will qualify you for various tax credits from the federal government. Click on these links to learn more about which credits you may be eligible for.
• Business Tax Credits and Deductions for Employment of People with Disabilities
Provides an overview on the tax incentives available to help employers cover accommodation costs for employees and/or customers with disabilities, making their businesses accessible for everyone.
• Facts About Disability-Related Tax Provisions
Supplies information on the Internal Revenue Service’s disability-related provisions of particular interest to businesses as well as people with disabilities.
• Tax Incentives Packet on the Americans with Disabilities Act
Covers how to take advantage of the tax credit and deduction available for complying with the ADA.
FLORIDA DIVISION OF VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION
Our Mission is “to help people with disabilities find and maintain employment and enhance their independence.” Our Vision is “to become the first place people with disabilities turn when seeking employment and a top resource for employers in need of qualified employees.”
VR is now offering Job Retention Services
VR has made the decision to provide job retention services to eligible individuals, regardless of order of selection, who require specific services or equipment to keep their job. This new option was created by the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). VR discussed this service option with the state rehabilitation council, and public input was received. VR is now offering these services.
Examples of VR Services:
Medical and Psychological Assessment
Vocational Evaluation and Planning
Career Counseling and Guidance
Training and Education After High School
Job-Site Assessment and Accommodations
Assistive Technology and Devices
Time-Limited Medical and/or Psychological Treatment
Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind Services
Deaf Resource LinksSupported Employment
Ticket to Work
Independent Living Program
IL Background Screening
IL Technical Assistance and Training
For more information:
Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits in Florida
Have you recently become disabled and are no longer able to work? Disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA) can be the additional financial assistance you need in order to get by when your health prevents you from working. Benefits are available in two forms through the SSA:
Both programs require the same medical qualification criteria, but each has its own technical eligibility requirements.
- For SSI, you must have limited income and other financial resources. The SSA will count saved cash or life insurance as an asset, but will allow an applicant to have one home and one vehicle of any value.
- For SSDI, you must have worked and paid into the Social Security system in order to accumulate sufficient work credits, which is a metric measuring how much an applicant worked and paid Social Security taxes. The SSA will have expected younger applicants to have worked less than older ones, but the rule of thumb is that you must have worked any 5 of the past 10 years to qualify.
If granted disability benefits through either or both of these programs, health coverage comes with eligibility as well.
- If you receive SSI benefits, you qualify for Medicaid coverage in Florida. Once you are accepted for SSI benefits, you will be automatically enrolled into Medicaid.
- If you receive SSDI benefits, you will additionally qualify for Medicare after 24 months of receiving disability benefits.
Qualifying Medically for Benefits
Medical qualification for Social Security Disability (SSD) is achieved through one of two ways:
- By meeting or matching a Blue Book listing
- By showing severely limited functional capacity through a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) evaluation
The Blue Book is a manual of disabling conditions that is compiled and maintained by the SSA. This manual includes detailed symptoms and medical records required in order to qualify with hundreds of impairments.
You can meet a listing precisely by having medical records that are exactly the same as the requirements shown, or you can match a listing in severity level. To match a listing, you must have medical records that show your impairment is the “medical equivalent” of the listed condition.
If you are unable to meet or match a Blue Book listing, then the SSA will conduct an RFC evaluation. This analysis examines your daily limitations in completing tasks like shopping, cooking, cleaning your home, and bathing. These activities are considered your activities of daily living or ADLs.
Severe limitations in your ADLs can qualify you for benefits. To qualify via an RFC analysis, your limitations must indicate you are unable to perform typical job functions and are therefore not able to work in any job for which you would otherwise be qualified.
You can find the full Blue Book online. Work closely with your primary care physician and other healthcare providers to ensure your medical records accurately reflect your physical, mental, and/or psychological limitations.
Applying for SSD in Florida
The application process varies somewhat between the two disability programs:
- With SSDI, you can apply in person or online via the SSA’s website.
- With SSI, you apply through a personal interview process with an SSA representative and interviews are typically held at local SSA offices.
Here are just a few of the locations in Florida at which you can submit an SSDI and/or SSI application:
- Fort Lauderdale – 3201 W. Commercial Blvd., Suite 100, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309
- Gainesville – 1610 N.W. 23rd Ave., Gainesville, FL 32605
- Jacksonville – 7185 Bonneval Rd., #1, Jacksonville, FL 32256
- Miami – 8345 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL 33138
- Naples – 2659 Professional Circle, #1114, Naples, FL 34119
- Tampa – Fountain Square II, 4925 Independence Pkwy, Tampa, FL 33634
- Orlando – 5520 Gatlin Ave., #101, Orlando, FL 32812
Only about 30 percent of disability applications submitted in Florida are approved at the initial application stage, but there are additional reviews and appeals for which you can apply. If your application is denied, you can request a second review and eventually file an appeal if necessary. Florida disability hearings have about a 57 percent approval rate, which is higher than the national average by nearly 10%. While an appeal means you must wait longer for disability benefits, you do have a strong chance of eventually receiving the disability benefits you need.
–Information Provided by —
Community Outreach Manager
Social Security Disability Help