If you suddenly find yourself unable to work because of a medical condition that is unlikely to improve anytime in the near future, you are likely concerned about supporting yourself and your family while disabled. Fortunately, in the United States there are programs available that provide monetary benefits to the disabled. The Social security Disability Insurance program (SSDI) and the Supplemental Security Insurance program (SSI) are two such options. Understanding the difference between SSI and SSDI is important when considering which program you should apply to for benefits.
Both the SSI and SSDI program provide monthly monetary benefits to disabled individuals. Both require you to meet the Social Security Administration (SSA) definition of disabled which requires that:
- You cannot do work that you did before;
- The SSA decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
The primary difference between the two programs is found in the income/work history eligibility requirements. To be eligible for SSDI you must have worked enough prior to your disability to qualify. According to the SSA guidelines, working earns you "work credits". You need enough "work credits" to qualify for SSDI. The number of "work credits" you need will depend on your age at the time of application. If you qualify for SSDI, your dependents may also qualify for monthly benefits based on your work record. Typically, SSDI benefits are higher than SSI benefits as well.
The SSI program is intended for low income disabled applicants. Unlike the SSDI program, you are not required to have worked prior to applying for SSI benefits. Instead, you are only required to prove that your income is low enough and that you meet the SSA definition of "disabled". If you qualify for SSI, your dependents will not be able to receive benefits based on your eligibility.
Although the application process sound simple enough, almost 70 percent of initial applications for SSI or SSDI benefits are denied each year. Often, denials are based on an incomplete application or some other technicality that could have been prevented. For this reason, it is best to consult with the experienced SSI and SSDI benefit attorneys at Simon & Gilman, LLP if you believe you should qualify for benefits prior to starting your application.