Every year more than two million Americans find themselves in a position where they are unable to work due to a disability and need to apply for federal benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA), in addition to its retirement benefits program, has two programs to assist people who are disabled and cannot work to sustain an income. The programs are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). Both programs offer monthly payments to persons unable to work due to a disability, but they differ in many respects.
SSDI Is Based on Earnings paid into Social Security
According to the SSA a person is considered disabled if they are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity for at least one year. This standard applies to both SSI and SSDI, but the two programs work very differently from one another. One of the main differences is that SSDI payments are based on how much a formerly employed person between the ages of 18 and 65 has paid into the Social Security trust fund during the time that they were working.
SSI Benefits Are Based On Need and Are Not Tied to an Applicant's Previous Work Experience.
SSDI Allows for Non-Employment Income
The SSA does allow persons applying for benefits to earn a certain amount of money through employment and still be considered disabled and eligible to receive benefits. To be considered disabled for the purpose of receiving SSDI an applicant can earn no more than $1260 per month. An individual SSI applicant can earn up to $783 per month and still be considered disabled for the purpose of receiving SSI and a couple applying for SSI can earn up to $1,175. SSDI recipients can continue to receive income from non-employment sources such as investment income, interest, or a spouse’s income but this is not the case with SSI applicants
SSI Limits the Amount of Assets an Applicant Can Own
The programs also differ in the amount of assets an applicant can own. There is no limit on allowable assets for SSDI recipients. SSI benefits are available to individuals who own assets of $2,000 or less for an individual and $3,000 or less for a couple. This limit does however exclude a recipient’s primary residence it they are a homeowner and allows them to own one motor vehicle.
The process of applying for federal disability benefits can take anywhere from 5 months up to two years or more for applications that have been initially rejected and need to be appealed. For individuals considering applying for either benefit program, consulting with an attorney experienced with disability law can help them figure out which program they are qualified to receive. In certain cases, an applicant may be able to receive benefits under both programs. Legal representation by an attorney can greatly increase the chances of a successful application for disability payments and save time by reducing the likelihood of an initial claim being denied.
If you are trying to figure out whether you qualify for SSI or SSDI, contact our law firm today for a free evaluation with one of our experienced attorneys.