What Is the Difference Between Social Security Disability (SSDI) and SSI?

by May 31, 2017

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In America, we have state and federal government programs that provide monthly benefits for disabled people. The two main federal programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Although they are both administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), these are totally different programs funded from completely different revenue sources. They use the same medical requirements but examine different non-medical requirements to determine if an applicant qualifies for the program.

SSDI is an earned benefit for physical or mental impairments that prevent a person from working and will last 12 months or longer or may result in death. Blind or disabled workers, their minor children, and other dependents can earn benefits. SSDI benefits are also paid to adults disabled since childhood.

SSI is for disabled people with low income and low assets who are 65 or older, as well as blind adults or children, and disabled children.

What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?

While both SSDI and SSI provide benefits to those with medical disabilities, there are several important differences between the programs. They draw their funding from different sources and can include different health insurance coverage, but the main disparities between the two programs are their qualification requirements.

What are the qualification requirements for SSDI?

SSDI is an insurance program that draws its funding from the Social Security taxes withheld from the paychecks of wage earners. Only those who have paid enough into the Social Security system qualify to receive SSDI benefits.

To evaluate that requirement, the SSA will examine your work credits before granting you SSDI benefits. You earn these credits for every quarter that you work. If you have earned the required number of work credits by the time you become disabled, you may be eligible for SSDI.

The number of work credits required varies based on your age at the time you became disabled. This rule is in the interest of fairness. An older worker has had more time to accumulate work credits than a younger worker, so younger workers need fewer work credits to qualify.

Who can qualify for SSI benefits?

General tax revenues provide the funding for SSI. The program is a safety net for those who have not worked long enough to qualify for SSDI. Therefore, you do not need work credits to qualify for SSI.

There are, however, asset limits you must meet for SSI benefits. You must have no more than $2,000 in assets for an individual or $3,000 for a couple.

The SSA does not count all assets toward this total. The assets that do count are your cash, bank accounts and investments, land, vehicles, personal property, life insurance, and anything else you own that you could convert into money for food and shelter.

Unlike SSI, the SSDI program does not place a limit on your assets when determining your eligibility.

Are there income limits for SSDI or SSI?

There are income limits for both SSDI and SSI. To qualify for these programs, you must not engage in any Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). The SGA earnings limit for 2017 is $1,170 per month, or $1,950 if you are legally blind. If you are earning more than this amount, you are not eligible for either SSDI or SSI benefits.

Are there different medical standards for SSDI and SSI?

Both SSDI and SSI use the SSA’s Blue Book, also known as the Listing of Impairments, to determine if a medical condition is disabling. The Blue Book is a complex, highly technical set of guidelines used to evaluate the severity of a wide range of medical conditions affecting every bodily system.

For each medical condition, the Blue Book itemizes exactly what proof will qualify you as disabled and notes the types of medical diagnostic testing they will accept as your proof. If your condition is not in the Blue Book, you may submit proof of a medical condition that is equally severe as a listed condition. It is even possible to qualify medically if your unlisted condition is not equally severe as another if you can prove you are unable to work because of it.

Being unable to work is a requirement for both SSDI and SSI, regardless of your medical condition. If you are able to support yourself through employment, the SSA does not consider you disabled.

Both SSDI and SSI are complicated. The SSA denies benefits for the majority of people the first time they apply, even those with desperate medical conditions. For many people, it is necessary to go through the appeals process to receive the benefits they deserve. Your financial security, both today and for the rest of your life, is at stake with your disability application. You need an experienced disability lawyer to advise you, to evaluate your disability claim, and to handle your application all the way through the process.

The attorneys at the Disability Advantage Group will meet with you and take care of your disability claim. We will not stop fighting for you until we have gotten you all the benefits you deserve. Call us today at 865-566-0800 to set up your free consultation.