The answer depends on what kind of benefit you are applying for. There are two disability benefits. Disability Insured Benefits (DIB, sometimes called Social Security Disability SSD or SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The main different is that DIB benefits are available to workers who have paid FICA taxes and have accumulated a certain number of work credits. SSI benefits are available to low income people who have not worked or don’t have enough work credits. SSI benefits take household income into account when determining payment amount and monthly payments do not exceed $735.00 in 2018. DIB payment can be significantly more than SSI.
If you are applying for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and you have enough work credits to qualify for DIB benefits, your immigration status will not prevent you from receiving benefits. You still have to prove that you are disabled but being a legal permanent resident will not be a bar.
However, if you only qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) it can be harder if you are a legal permanent resident. There are only a few circumstances in which a legal permanent resident can receive SSI. Asylees, refugees and people who have received withholding of removal can receive SSI for 7 years. Veterans and active duty members of the US Armed forces can receive SSI. Legal permanent residents who have obtained 40 work credits can receive SSI. Or legal permanent residents who can combine their work credits with their spouse’s work credits or parents’ work credits to equal 40 can receive SSI. However, it is important to note that work credits will not be counted if the household was receiving any federal “need based” benefits at the time.
To receive either DIB or SSI, you have to show that you are disabled under the Social Security Act.