Social Security has two different programs for Social Security Disability benefits: supplemental security income (SSI) and social security disability insurance (SSDI, also known as SSD). While both require that the person applying is medically disabled, they have different non-medical qualifications for approval.
This article will cover the main differences between SSI and SSDI, including benefits and application requirements.
SSI vs. SSDI: What’s the Difference?
SSI and SSDI are programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to provide income to people who meet their definition of “disabled.” SSDI eligibility is based on work history, while SSI is based on financial need.
- SSI provides benefits to those who meet social security’s definition of disability with limited to no income or assets. If you are married, the SSA will consider your spouse’s income as your own. Generally, this program is for individuals who have assets that are less than $2,000 in value or married couples living together who have assets that are less than $3,000 in value.
- SSDI provides benefits for those who meet social security’s definition of “disability” and have at least 40 work credits, 20 of which were acquired in the last 10 years. Each year of employment can earn up to 4 work credits. If you have had consistent work up until you became disabled, you will likely qualify. To know how many work credits you have, you can make an account at mysocialsecurity.gov or call your local social security office.
SSI vs. SSDI: Qualifications
Non-medical eligibility requirements are different for SSI and SSDI applicants. However, medical eligibility requirements are the same.
Medical Disability Requirements for SSDI & SSI
SSI and SSDI applicants must have disabilities that meet the SSA’s severe disability standards:
- You must have a total disability. Benefits will not be given to those with short-term or partial disabilities.
- Your disability must render you unable to work or engage in gainful activity, which the SSA defines as working and earning approximately $1,470 per month gross (before taxes are withheld) or more ($2,460 gross if you are blind).
- Your disability has lasted for 12 months, is expected to last for 12 months, or is expected to end in death.
- Your disability must limit your ability to do any work—not just the work you have been doing. You must be able to show that there are no jobs you can do based on your limitations. Unfortunately, social security will not consider factors such as what jobs you qualify for or if employers in your area are hiring.
Special Age Considerations for SSDI and SSI
- If you are 50 or older, Social Security must determine whether you can return to any of your jobs from the last 15 years.
- If you are 50-54. If you cannot return to a prior job, Social Security must determine whether you can do work that requires more exertion than sitting down for most of the day. If they find you cannot do your past work and you could only do work where you are seated for the majority of the day, they must find you disabled.
- If you are 55 or older. If you cannot return to a prior job, Social Security must determine if you can do work that requires more exertion than a light-duty job. If they find you cannot do your past work and you could only do light-duty work or work where you are seated for most of the day, they must find you disabled.
SSI applicants must have little to no income or financial resources, and meet one or more of the following requirements:
- You have a qualifying disability at any age.
- You are blind at any age.
- Or, you are over age 65.
SSDI applicants may be eligible to receive payments if they meet the following requirements:
- Applicants must be 65 or younger. A person receiving SSDI will automatically roll over to Social Security retirement payments at retirement age. Income and assets do not make an individual ineligible.
- Applicants must have sufficient work credits. 40 work credits are typically required, 20 of which must have been earned 10 years before a disability began. Up to 4 work credits are earned every year. However, younger SSDI applicants may need fewer credits to qualify, as they may not have had enough time to earn a qualifying number of credits.
- You have a qualifying disability.
SSI vs. SSDI: Benefits
SSI and SSDI benefits differ in what each provides, the maximum amounts provided each month, how they’re calculated, and how long it takes to start receiving payments.
- Maximum payments per month: $914 for single applicants, $1,371 if married.
- Time to collect benefits: Typically 60 days after the date on a decision from a judge or a notice of approved claim. SSI benefits can only be paid back to the month after an application was filed, even if the disability started prior to that.
- State supplemental payments: Most states pay SSI recipients an additional amount called “state supplements.” The extra amount provided varies from state to state.
- How SSI benefits are calculated: The SSA will subtract your countable income earned income, in-kind income, and deemed income) from the SSI Federal benefit rate (currently $914 for single applicants, $1,371 for married applicants. The resulting number determines the amount you will receive each month.
- Source of funds: Payments are provided through general tax revenues.
- Maximum payments per month: $3,627 as of 2023. Your specific amount will be based on your work history.
- Time to collect payments: Typically 60 days after the date on a decision from a judge or a notice of approved claim. SSDI benefits can only be paid back to 5 months after the SSA determines the disability to begin. For example, if social security found someone became disabled on January 1, 2021, and they were approved for benefits, they might be owed benefits from June 2021 to the present, 5 months after they were found to be disabled. However, the actual date that SSA pays back to will never be more than 1 year prior to the application date.
- Medical Insurance Eligibility: Two years after the date that a claimant can be paid back benefits to is the date that a claimant becomes eligible to receive Medicare health insurance.
- How SSDI benefits are calculated: The amount provided each month is the average of one’s lifetime monthly earnings. This amount may be lowered if an applicant is already collecting worker’s compensation, or other state or civil service disability benefits. Payments also fluctuate each year based on cost-of-living changes. Auxiliary SSDI benefits may be provided to dependents such as minors.
- Source of funds: Payments are provided through a disability trust fund.
Are SSD or SSI Lawyers Necessary?
Individuals may apply on their own, or with the help of an SSDI/SSI attorney. Hiring help from a lawyer is often recommended for the following reasons:
- Greater chance of approval: Many SSI and SSDI applicants find it difficult to get approved for benefits. Some are declined many times before finally getting approved. SSI/SSDI attorneys understand the system and can make sure your case is properly appealed, moving through the system smoothly, and that all critical information has been sent to the Social Security Administration.
- Understanding the Process: SSI/SSDI attorneys can help you understand the complicated process and help you manage expectations and understand typical timelines and outcomes of the Social Security Administration’s system.
- A streamlined application process: Applications require extensive documentation including medical histories and employment histories. All information must be submitted by certain deadlines during the application and appeals processes. Having a legal team manage these steps helps applicants by providing the information you need to make decisions for yourself and your health as you navigate this system and avoid unnecessary roadblocks.
- Collaborating with Medical Providers: Doctors and other medical professionals are key to helping to be approved for benefits. While doctors can be supportive, they often don’t know what specific information a judge would need to approve a case. That information is not typically documented by providers. A statement from a doctor stating you are disabled is not considered sufficient by the Social Security Administration to find in your favor even when combined with medical records. SSI/SSDI attorneys can prompt providers to provide information about your limitations and how they affect your ability to work in a way that supports your claim and is persuasive to the Social Security Administration.
Speak with an SSI/SSDI Attorney
When you find yourself fully disabled and unable to work due to your disabilities, help from SSI/SSDI attorneys can vastly improve your chances at being approved for the benefits you need and deserve. With office locations across the Hudson Valley and NYC, the SSDI and SSI attorneys at Sobo & Sobo are ready to help you get the benefits you’re owed.
Call 855-468-7626, or contact Sobo & Sobo online to schedule your free consultation, and start your journey towards receiving the disability benefits you’re owed.