Updated: Nov 15
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are two major federal programs that provide financial assistance to individuals with disabilities and their families. While both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), they serve different populations and have distinct eligibility criteria and benefits. However, it’s easy to get confused if you’re new to these programs. Here’s what you need to know about each.
Financial vs. Work History Eligibility Criteria
SSI is a needs-based program, meaning it is designed for individuals with limited income and resources. Eligibility is not based on work history, but rather on overall financial need. With SSI, “resources” refers to possessions of considerable value, so it’s important to be aware of SSI eligibility asset limits as well. To qualify, applicants must have less than $2,000 in resources (or $3,000 for couples) and a very limited income. Additionally, they must be either 65 or older, blind, or have another type of disability.
SSDI, on the other hand, is an insurance program. Eligibility is based on an individual's work history and the amount of Social Security taxes they've paid. Typically, you need to have earned a certain number of work credits, which are based on your yearly wages or self-employment income, to qualify.
Both programs require that individuals have a disability to qualify, and the medical criteria are generally the same for both. You must have a condition that has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months, or that is expected to result in death.
The federal benefit rate for SSI varies yearly and is determined by the government. Some states also provide a supplementary payment. The amount an individual receives can be affected by other income and living arrangements.
SSDI benefits are based on your earnings record, meaning the amount you receive is related to your past income. The average SSDI benefit amount was around $1,277 per month as of January 2021.
SSI recipients may also be eligible for Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
SSDI recipients are eligible for Medicare after a 24-month qualifying period. They may also be eligible for dependent benefits, meaning certain family members could receive benefits based on the recipient's work record.
Qualifying for Both SSI and SSDI
In some cases, individuals with disabilities may qualify for both SSI and SSDI, a situation commonly referred to as "concurrent benefits." To be eligible for concurrent benefits, a person must meet the medical disability criteria for both programs. Additionally, their income after receiving SSDI benefits must be low enough to still meet the income requirements for SSI. This typically happens when the individual has a limited work history, which results in lower SSDI payments.
By qualifying for both programs, individuals can receive SSI to supplement their SSDI benefits, potentially gaining access to both Medicaid and Medicare. This can help you maximize both your healthcare coverage and the financial support you receive.
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