The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program are both programs that can provide cash benefits to disabled individuals. Furthermore, both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration. Finally, both programs require the benefits applicant to have one or more conditions resulting in severe impairments or limitations. Therefore, one might assume that the programs might have the same or extremely similar eligibility requirements.
In reality the two programs have different goals and often serve different populations of disabled or severely impaired individuals. However, there are some circumstances where the programs can overlap and applicants may be able to draw benefits from both programs. However, before we look at potential scenarios where there may be an overlap, let’s first discuss the goals and purposes of the two forms of disability benefits.
What Are the Goals of the SSDI and SSI Disability Programs?
The SSDI and SSI disability programs are intended for different pools of disabled people. SSI is intended for people who are blind, disabled, or age 65 and older having few resources and little income. Income includes any money you may receive for work performed, from Social Security benefits, from pensions, and from the assets and resources you may possess or control. However, not everything is counted as income for SSI purposes. Income that is not counted against your limit includes:
- Benefits received through SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)
- Most forms of benefits for home energy assistance.
- The first $20 in income you receive.
- If you work, the first $65 is exempt. Half the amount earned over $65 is also exempted.
- For students, some wages or scholarships may also be discounted from the income calculation.
Married couples are required to include a portion of their spouse’s income, if any. Likewise children who have not yet reached age 18 must typically include at least a portion of their parent’s household income. The requirement that pertains to resources and assets held by the benefits applicant usually requires the individual to have less than $2,000 in assets. For couples, the limit is $3,000. However certain resources such as the family home, a car, a burial plot, and up to $1,500 in burial funds is not included.
In contrast to the SSI program which works like a social safety net, the SSDI program is designed as an insurance program for workers. Workers must work for a sufficient time period and earn the requisite number of work credits before they may draw benefits from the system. Aside from satisfying the recent and overall work credit requirement, the individual must also be so severely disabled so that he or she cannot do any work or he or she cannot perform past work and no alternate work is available.
Clearly the programs serve very different people. The SSI program is intended to provide benefits to the most needy disabled people in society. The SSDI program is intended to provide a form of long-term disability benefits for workers who can no longer continue at their trade or occupation.
When Can a Disability Benefits Applicant Receive Both SSDI and SSI Benefits?
While SSI has different income limits by state, as a general rule, the applicant’s unearned income must not exceed $733 each month. However even in cases where you have sufficient work credits, it is unlikely that the applicant will be able to draw simultaneous benefits from both disability programs. This is because the SSI payment is reduced to account for any payments made through the SSDI program. That is, if you were to receive a $500 monthly SSDI benefit payment, your SSI benefits would be reduced by a corresponding $500. However, there can be situations where it is advantageous or strategic to file concurrent claims for both SSI and SSDI benefits.
One scenario where it can be advantageous to apply for concurrent benefits is when the expected SSDI benefit is small. Also applying for SSI benefits may allow the applicant to use the SSI program to compensate for their slight income and few resources. In other circumstances, applying concurrently for benefits and receiving approval under both programs may be done due to the other benefits that come along with either SSDI or SSI approval. That is, those receiving benefits under SSI are only entitled to receive Medicaid benefits. SSDI beneficiaries may, following a two year waiting period, receive Medicare benefits. The benefit here is that Medicare is more widely accepted by doctors and other healthcare providers.
Applying for SSDI or SSI? Rely on our Social Security Disability Experience
Ken Kieklak is dedicated to fighting for individuals who have had to stop working due to the development of a serious impairment. Ken can provide strategic advice regarding your benefits claim. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a Fayetteville AR disability lawyer call (479) 316-0438 or contact us online.