Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are both supplemental income programs that are used to help the disabled, elderly, and blind. The main difference between SSDI and SSI is that SSI is a means-based program, whereas SSDI is an entitlement program. SSDI is only available to people who have worked long enough to accumulate work credits. SSI is available to people who have not earned enough work credits and can show that they financially need the support. Both SSI and SSDI are administered by the Social Security Administration, but they have entirely different financial requirements.
Supplemental Security Income
SSI is purposely designed to meet the basic needs of the elderly 65 or older, disabled, or blind. SSI is available to both adults and children who are blind or disabled. Blindness is defined as a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in your better eye with the use of correcting lenses, or a visual field limitation in your better eye such as an angle no greater than 20 degrees. If you do not meet any of these requirements for blindness you may still be eligible for SSI. Disability for a child is defined as any person who is under 18 and has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment. The impairment must result in severe functional limitations, may result, or is expected to result, in death, or has lasted, or is expected to last more than 12 months. If you are 18 or older the adult disability requirements are the same as that of a child.
SSI is often referred to as a “means-tested program,” as it has nothing to do with working and is issued based solely on your financial need. To apply for SSI, you must have limited to no income as well as limited resources. Specifically, you must have less than $2,000 in assets ($3,000 for a couple) and have a very limited income. Limited income is calculated based on the money you earn from work, as well as the money you receive from Social Security benefits, worker’s compensation, unemployment benefits, the Department of Veterans Affairs, friends or family and free food or shelter. Limited resources, or assets, includes, but is not limited to:
- Bank accounts, stocks, U.S. savings bonds
- Personal property
- Life insurance
If you are disabled and meet the financial requirements for SSI, you may also be able to receive Medicaid as well. Medicaid is a joint state and federal health care program that provides comprehensive coverage to beneficiaries. Most SSI applicants apply for SSI because of the Medicaid health coverage. If you meet the requirements for SSI, you can also receive food stamps, which is another “means-tested program.” SSI benefits will begin the first month you submit your application. In 2015, the average SSI payment was $733 per month.
Social Security Disability Insurance
SSDI allows workers who become disabled to receive their Social Security benefits early. You must be younger than 65 and have earned a certain number of “work credits” to be eligible for SSDI. SSDI is for people who cannot work because they have a medical disability that is expected to last at least 12 months or may result in death. SSDI is completely different from SSI, as it is funded through payroll taxes. Recipients of SSDI will receive benefits because they have worked a certain number of years, receiving work credits, and have made contributions to the Social Security trust fund. For example, if you become disabled before age 28, you generally need to have worked at least 1.5 years, whereas if you become disabled at age 50, you generally need to have worked at least 7 years.
Approval for SSDI is dependent on these five questions:
- Are you working?
- Is your medical condition severe?
- Does your impairment(s) meet or medically equal a listing?
- Can you do the work you did before?
- Can you do any other type of work?
SSDI also provides auxiliary benefits, which means that a disabled person’s spouse and children dependents receive partial dependent benefits. Your spouse will only receive the benefits if he or she is 62 or older, but if your spouse is caring for your child that is either younger than 16 or disabled, they may receive benefits even if they are older than 62. For children to receive benefits, they must be unmarried and younger than 18 (or younger than 19 if they are still in high school). For unmarried children that are 18 or older and have a disability that started before the age of 22, they may also receive the benefits, if the disability meets the definition of a disability for adults.
You must apply for SSDI as soon as you become disabled as SSDI has a three- to five-month waiting period, which means that you will not begin receiving benefits until after the first three to five months you become disabled. In 2015, the average SSDI payment was $1,165 per month.
If you have any questions about which Social Security benefits program you may be eligible for, contact P&P Medicaid Consulting. The professionals at P&P Medicaid Consulting are here to help advise you on which programs you may be eligible for and to help prepare your applications. For more information, or to schedule a consultation,