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SSDI and SSI: Social Security Disability Programs

The Social Security Administration houses a number of benefit programs, including 2 federal disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While the acronyms are similar, the programs themselves are quite different.

WHAT IS SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program that offers monthly Social Security Disability payments to people under 65 who have qualifying disabilities and meet certain work requirements. Social Security Disability Insurance is funded through the Social Security Trust Fund – which is financed by FICA taxes that are withheld from an individual’s paycheck every pay period.


Should you be awarded SSDI, your monthly benefits will be based on your Social Security Income record, or how much money you’ve paid in taxes over the last 10 years of your work history.

  • For example: an individual who has worked for 10 years earning $50,000 a year will receive more in monthly benefits than an individual who has worked for 10 years earning $25,000 a year.

Your monthly benefit amount does not only depend on your past income, but also on where you live. If you live in an area of the country with a higher cost of living, your monthly benefits will be higher to account for that.

In order to qualify for SSDI benefits, you have to have acquired a certain amount of “work credits.” These are credits you accrue throughout your work history. For every quarter that you work and are paying Social Security taxes you receive a “work credit,” and can therefore earn up to 4 work credits a year. In order to qualify for SSDI benefits, you typically need to have earned 5 years’ worth of credits within the past 10 years of working. (Or 20 credits for the last 40 credit period). Having these work credits gives you “insured status.”

Your date last insured (DLI) is 5 years after you stopped receiving work credits. Your DLI is the last date you are eligible to qualify for SSDI benefits. Essentially, this means that your medical records must prove that you had disabling conditions before your date last insured.

WHAT IS SSI?

If you do not have a sufficient amount of work credits, or you cannot prove your disability began within your period of insured status, that is where Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can help. SSI benefits are awarded on the basis of financial need to those who are disabled and have limited income and resources.

The Supplemental Security Income program is financed by general funds of the U.S Department of Treasury (personal income tax, corporate tax, etc.). Because of this funding style, there is a cap on the amount of money an individual can receive monthly. And because SSI eligibility is dependent on “limited income and resources,” your monthly benefit amount can be decreased based on other benefits, income, or resources – such as a spouse’s income, bank accounts, life insurance, and more. In order to be eligible for SSI in 2020, an individual must be making less than $803 a month, and a couple must be making less than $1195 a month (including resources listed above).

There are not, however, any work credit or insured status requirements. To qualify for SSI you need to prove you are in need of a supplemental income and meet the definition of disability as defined by the Social Security Administration.

SUMMARY OF DIFFERENCES:

SSDI:

  • Funded by Social Security Trust Fund

  • Monthly benefit amount is dependent on how much money you've paid in

  • Is not dependent on "extra resources"

  • Must meet insured status by acquiring credits throughout work history


SSI:

  • Funded by general taxes

  • Monthly benefit is a capped amount

  • Is dependent on "extra resources," and monthly amount can be reduced because of them

  • No requirements for work history

ARE THERE ANY SIMILARITIES?:

Yes. In order to qualify for both programs, you must meet the definition of disability as defined by the Social Security Administration. The definition of disability is a follows:

  • The inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”

This requirement is the bulk of the evaluation of a Social Security Disability claim – both SSI and SSDI. The SSA collects your medical records throughout the period of time that you alleged to having disabling conditions. Physicians and staff employed by SSA will evaluate your records and determine whether you meet the definition of disability as stated above.

Some people receive only SSDI or SSI, some people are eligible for both. If you are struggling with a mental or physical impairment that is preventing you from working, there is a program that can help.

If you are unsure where to begin, or aren’t sure what program you qualify for, contact us for a free consultation. The attorneys at Kapor | Davis are the best in the Greater Cincinnati Area, and as a firm that solely focuses on Social Security Disability law, can provide unmatched advice and representation for your claim.

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