Understanding the Differences Between SSI and SSDI

Social security disabilityDo you have a disability that prevents you from working? Are you or a disabled loved one worried about making ends meet? You may qualify for government assistance. The Social Security Administration (SSA) manages two programs that provide monthly payments to individuals living with disabilities: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). However, while the two programs have similar missions and are known by similar acronyms, they have very different eligibility requirements. Here’s what you should know about SSI and SSDI, how the programs differ, and how Keefe Disability Law’s skilled Boston attorneys can guide you through the application process for the correct program and help you fight for the benefits you deserve.

Basic Social Security Disability Eligibility 

To qualify for benefits through the SSDI or SSI programs, applicants must meet the following medical and duration requirements:

  • Qualifying medical condition. You must have a severely disabling condition that prevents work or substantial gainful activity (SGA). The SSA requires objective medical evidence from acceptable medical sources (AMS) to establish the existence of a medically determinable impairment (MDI).
  • Duration requirement. Your MDI must cause a disability that lasts for at least a year or is expected to result in death.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): A Payroll-Tax Funded Government Insurance Program for Disabled Workers

Diagnosed with a disabling medical condition and no longer able to work or participate in substantial gainful activity (SGA)? If you previously earned enough work credits by working in jobs that require workers to contribute to the Social Security trust fund through payroll taxes, you may qualify for SSDI. The credits are based on how much you earn each year, and workers can earn up to four credits annually. (Your spouse and children may also be eligible for benefits based on your earnings record.) SSDI applicants generally need 40 work credits – 20 of which were earned in the last ten years before the disability began – to qualify. 

Don’t meet the work credit requirements for SSDI? Supplemental Security Income – SSI – may be the program for you.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI): A Program for Disabled Persons With Limited Income and Assets  

If you’ve never been able to work because of your disability or you worked for a time but had to quit before you’d earned sufficient work credits, you may qualify for SSI. Unlike SSDI, SSI has no work credit requirements, but it is a means-tested program with strict asset and income limits. To qualify for SSI, you can’t have more than $2,000 in countable resources as an individual. The resource limit for couples is $3,000. However, not everything you own counts toward the resource limit. Notable exceptions include: 

  • Your home and the land it’s on
  • One vehicle (used for transportation)
  • Household goods and personal items
  • Life insurance or burial policies up to $1,500
  • Burials plots for you (or your immediate family)

You may be eligible to receive SSI, even if you’re already receiving SSDI benefits. Talk to us about the possibility of collecting concurrent disability benefits.

Get Experienced Help With Your Disability Application or Appeal 

The SSDI and SSI application processes are complex, complicated, and confusing. Nearly 70 percent of applications are initially denied – often due to preventable mistakes in the application paperwork or a lack of supporting medical evidence from appropriate sources. When you’re feeling your worst and counting on much-needed disability benefits, there’s far too much at stake to go it alone. Fortunately, you don’t have to. Caring and capable help is just a call or click away.

Schedule a Consultation 

Let Keefe Disability Law’s exceptional legal team handle your disability application. Already applied but received a denial letter? We can help you appeal. Complete the online contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to schedule a free initial consultation to find out how we can assist you. In the meantime, request a complimentary copy of our guide, Social Security: Which Program Do You Apply For? or browse our FAQs for additional information. 

Patrick Hartwig
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Founding Attorney, Hartwig Law Firm