At some point during the course of your lifetime, you may find yourself unable to work as a result of mental and/or physical disability. The sudden, or even gradual, loss of the ability to work can have a devastating impact on you and your family, particularly if your income is a significant contributor to the family finances. The good news is that there are two federal assistance programs that may be able to help. The Garden City elder law attorneys explain the similarities and differences between the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs.
How Are SSI and SSDI Similar?
Like many government programs, most people know very little about SSI and SSDI unless they find themselves in a position where they need to qualify for one or the other. In fact, people frequently use the names of the programs interchangeably despite the fact that they are two very different programs. There are, however, some basic similarities between SSI and SSDI. Both SSI and SSDI are funded by the U.S. federal government through the Social Security Administration. In addition, both are programs that provide monthly monetary assistance to individuals who are disabled. Finally, both programs use the same test to determine if an applicant meets the government’s definition of disabled. As such, the first eligibility criteria for either SSI or SSDI is a determination of disability which requires that:
- You cannot do work that you did before;
- The SSA decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
Understanding the Differences between SSI and SSDI
Although both SSI and SSDI provide financial assistance to disabled individuals, there are several important differences between the two programs. To be eligible for SSDI you must have a sufficient work history prior to your disability to qualify. According to the SSA guidelines, working earns you “work credits”. You need enough “work credits” to qualify for SSDI. The number of “work credits” you need will depend on your age at the time of application; however, most applicants need to have earned 20 credits during the preceding 10 years. A work credit is earned by earning a designated amount ($1,300 for the year 2017) up to a maximum of four credits a year if you earned $5,200 or more. If you qualify for SSDI, your dependents may also qualify for monthly benefits based on your work record. Because SSDI benefits are based on your work history, the monthly benefit you receive will almost always be higher than the current SSI benefit. The average monthly SSDI benefit as of January 2017 was $1,171 with a maximum benefit amount topping out at $2,687.
Eligibility for SSI, on the other hand, has nothing to do with your work history. Instead, eligibility for SSI is based solely on your income and resources. To qualify, you must have income and resources that are below the program limits. The resources limit for an individual is just $2,000 and for a married couple $3,000. Unlike the SSDI program, SSI benefits are not available to family members based on your eligibility. You may, however, be automatically found eligible for other assistance programs, such as Medicaid, and SNAP (food stamps) if you receive SSI benefits. For 2017, the average monthly SSI benefit was $542 and the maximum was $735 for an individual and $1,103 for a married couple.
Unfortunately, almost 70 percent of initial SSDI and SSI applications are denied, often because of incomplete applications or because of missing information. If you believe you may be eligible for SSI or SSDI be sure to consult with an experienced elder law attorney before applying.
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns relating to the Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance program, contact the Garden City elder law attorneys at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.