The Social Security Administration offers two Social Security disability benefits programs. Both programs require that the applicant has a disability so severe that it prevents them from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA).
The main differences are:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is based on a work credit system, meaning that applicants’ eligibility is based on their age and how long they worked at jobs that paid 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 financial resources.
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.
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 factor into whether you qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
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. Older people require more credits.
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 of every system of the body. If your condition 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.
You Cannot Engage in SGA
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 2020 is $1,260 a month for people who are not blind and $2,110 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 passing.
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 type of job that you have the training or skills to perform.
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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 does not get funding from payroll deductions. The government provides the money for SSI out of general revenues like income tax.
The SSI program offers monthly cash payments to disabled people who have 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 2020 SSI Federal benefit rate is $783 a month. If your countable income is $500 a month, your monthly SSI check will be $283. A person with a countable income of more than $783 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.
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
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 purposes of SSI eligibility. An attorney can help you determine which of your assets are countable.
Getting Help with SSDI and SSI Applications and Appeals
At Berger and Green, it is our passion to help people who cannot work because of a disability. We can help with your initial application and appeals. You can call us today at (412) 661-1400 for a free consultation.