A Detailed Explanation of SSI and SSDI

by | May 11, 2019 | Lawyer


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If you are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the Social Security Administration, you likely aren’t aware of the SSI and SSDI federal programs. Both stand as disability programs offering financial support for disabled Americans. But that is where their similarities end. Everything from the requirements to the delay period before receiving benefits is completely different. Although informing yourself of the general differences between the two programs is a great start, you should contact a local Social Security lawyer to find out information tailored to your individual case.

What is SSI

SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income and is a need-based federal program funded by the general tax pool. Unlike the traditional Social Security Benefits program most Americans are familiar with, SSI has nothing to do with your work history. Even individuals with zero work experience can qualify for this program, assuming they meet the other general requirements.

SSI does not affect your eligibility for other federal aid programs, Medicaid, or the food stamps program. You can apply for and collect benefits from all these programs during the same period.

SSI Requirements

To qualify for Supplemental Security Income, you must have less than $2,000 in assets as an individual or $3,000 as a couple and have a minimal monthly income. These are very strict guidelines and earning just a dollar over the maximum could render you ineligible.

Your SSI benefits will start the very same month you applied.

What is SSDI

SSDI is Social Security Disability Insurance, which is paid by the American public’s payroll taxes. Unlike SSI, this program is based on your work history. SSDI recipients must have worked a certain number of years while contributing to the Social Security system throughout their careers before becoming disabled. Valid contributions are considered FICA taxes deducted from your paycheck or self-employment taxes.

Additional requirements are that recipients must be between the ages of 18 to 65 and possess a minimum number of “work credits.”

What are SSDI work credits?

The Social Security Administration transfers all of your earnings into so-called work credits. The specific amount needed for one credit fluctuates annually. For 2019, one work credit is worth $1,360.

The older you are, the more work credits you will need to qualify for SSDI. However, the average necessary amount lies at 40 work credits. Your Social Security Disability lawyer can help you calculate your credits if you are unsure.

After applying for the SSDI program, there is a five-month waiting period before you will receive any benefits. The Social Security Administration uses this time to process your application. Once your application has been processed and approved, they will then decide on the monthly amount you will receive. Your monthly benefits amount will depend on your earnings record and number of earned work credits.

After being part of the SSDI program for at least two years, recipients can apply for the Medicare program.

How can a Social Security lawyer help?

Social Security Benefits lawyers can give you advice regarding your application and if your chances are better with SSI or SSDI. Generally speaking, women have a better chance with SSI applications than SSDI since they may be lacking the necessary work credits and experience. If you have a long work experience predating your disability, you will likely have an easier time with the SSDI application.

Applicants, on average, find more success with SSDI compared to SSI. This is due to multiple reasons: higher income (which excludes them from the SSI program), higher insurance coverage which allows frequent doctor visits (which are necessary for proving disability), as well as a higher level of credibility in the eyes of Social Security judges and examiners.

Although similar in their intention of supporting disabled individuals, these programs could not be any more different in the eyes of the law. You shouldn’t embark on this complicated process alone; a qualified Social Security lawyer will ease your stress, simplify the application process, and increase your chances of a successful application.