The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two Social Security disability benefits programs. One is called Social Security Disability Insurance, and the other is called Supplemental Security Income. In short:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is based on a work credit system. This means applicants’ eligibility depends on their age and how long they worked at jobs paying into Social Security.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is for people who do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI but have limited income and few or limited financial resources.
What Are the Main Differences Between SSDI and SSI?
Both programs require the applicant to have a disability so severe that it prevents them from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA). However, even though the SSA oversees both programs, they are not the same. It is essential to know the differences between them so you know which Social Security disability benefits to apply for.
How you qualify for Social Security disability benefits will depend on whether you apply for SSDI or SSI, as the rules are different for each program. Both programs require applicants to disclose personal and medical information, so have your documentation regarding both when you are ready to apply.
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Applying for the SSDI Program
Some of the money your employer takes out of your paycheck goes to pay for Social Security retirement and disability programs. The jobs you have worked, your age, and your disability will all factor into whether you qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
You are encouraged to apply for SSDI as soon as you learn you have a disability.
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), you may qualify for SSDI if you meet the following five requirements:
You Have Enough Work Credits
You need to have worked in jobs long enough that paid into Social Security taxes. You can earn four credits a year. The number of credits you need depends on your age.
You Have a Qualifying Medical Condition
You must have a medical condition that satisfies the SSA’s severity test. The SSA uses the Listing of Impairments, also called “the Blue Book,” to measure how severe an individual’s illness or injury is.
The Blue Book sets objective standards, like blood test results, for medical conditions concerning every system of the body. If your diagnosis is not in the Blue Book, or your condition does not satisfy the criteria in the Blue Book, you may have other options to qualify.
Qualifying conditions for SSD benefits fall into various categories such as:
- Respiratory disorders (e.g., asthma, emphysema)
- Neurological disorders (e.g., epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease)
- Cardiovascular disorders (e.g., chronic heart failure)
- Immune system disorders (e.g., inflammatory arthritis)
This is not an exhaustive list. You can find more qualifying conditions in the SSA’s Blue Book.
You Cannot Engage in Substantial Gainful Activity
To qualify for SSDI, you cannot make more money than the current year’s SGA limit. The SSA notes that the limit for SGA for 2021 is $1,310 a month for sighted people and $2,190 a month for people who are statutorily blind.
Your Condition Will Last More Than a Year or Is Terminal
You may qualify for Social Security disability benefits if you have a medical condition that:
- Has lasted a year; or
- Is expected to last at least a year; or
- Is expected to result in your death
Your Condition Prevents You From Working
You must have a medical condition that prevents you from working in the same capacity as you did before your disability or in a different job that you have the training or skills to perform.
Applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits
If you do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, you might be able to qualify for SSI. The SSI program offers monthly cash payments to disabled people with very low income and whose countable assets are not more than the SSI limit. Any countable income you have will get deducted from the amount of your SSI monthly benefit, per the SSA.
For example, the 2021 SSI Federal benefit rate is $794 a month. If your countable income is $500 a month, your monthly SSI check will be $294. A person with a countable income of more than $794 a month will not receive SSI benefits. The Federal benefit rate can change every year.
The SSA notes that an individual can own no more than $2,000 in countable assets, and a couple can own no more than $3,000 in countable assets.
Assets That are Not Countable Toward SSI Benefits
Some examples of items that are not considered countable assets include:
- Your home and the land it sits on
- One car
- Personal items, like clothing
- Household goods
Countable SSI Resources
The types of resources that count toward the SSI limit are things like:
- Additional land
- Additional vehicles
- Checking and savings accounts
- Life insurance that has a cash value
These are but a few examples of the countable resources and the things that the SSA does not count as assets for SSI eligibility purposes. An attorney from our team can help you determine which of your assets are countable.
If you are interested in meeting with a Berger and Green attorney, we can advise you further on this and other matters during a free consultation. Get answers to your questions today.
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Berger and Green Can Help with SSDI and SSI Application Reviews and Appeals
At Berger and Green, our passion is helping people who cannot work because of a disability. We can review your initial application and help you appeal. If you would like a review of your SSDI and SSI applications, you can call us at (412) 661-1400 for a free consultation. We are here to help you, so do not hesitate to reach out to us today.
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