SSA considers changing rules about SSDI for non-English speakers

Anyone who has applied for Social Security Disability Insurance in Texas knows how difficult the application process is. There are seemingly endless documents that you must supply in order to prove that you not only have a disability, but that your disability prevents you from working. Even when you supply this information, the Social Security Administration can decide that you are not disabled to the point that you cannot work and deny you benefits.

Under current SSDI rules, an applicant may be considered disabled if he or she does not speak English fluently. The justification for this rule is that it is much harder to obtain work in the U.S. when you cannot speak the primary language. While this may make sense for people living in Dallas and other parts of the U.S., a recent audit of the SSDI program found that many people living in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico were qualifying for federal disability benefits because they could not speak English.

Of course, most people in Puerto Rico speak Spanish, so not being able to speak English would typically not make someone less employable. Still, more than 200 people in Puerto Rico were approved for disability benefits because of this rule.

Government auditors noticed this loophole in a recent audit, and the SSA is now considering changing the rules regarding English proficiency. Instead, the SSA may consider a person's local environment before determining that an inability to speak fluent English contributes to his or her employability.

The rules of applying for SSDI are very complex. To ensure that you have the best chance possible at obtaining the benefits you need, it may be wise to work with an experienced SSDI attorney.

Source: The Washington Post, "Puerto Ricans who can't speak English qualify as disabled for Social Security," Josh Hicks,