The federal government has several financial benefit programs for individuals who are unable to work due to disability. The most common and recognizable ones are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The two programs may sound similar, but there are important details that differentiate them from one another. Understanding each program’s unique features can help determine whether one or both are right for you. In this article, we’ll discuss what each of these programs are, how they differ, and how to apply for them.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Supplemental Security Income is a means-tested government program that provides financial assistance to individuals with disabilities and those who are 65 years of age or older. A means test is a way of calculating whether an individual is eligible for government assistance programs based on whether or not they have sufficient financial means without it. In other words, SSI is a benefit given out to only those who can prove they need it because of disability or old age AND limited income and resources.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
Social Security Disability Insurance is much like SSI in that it is a government benefit used to help those with disabilities. The key difference is that SSDI requires an established work history. The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires the recipients of SSDI to have worked long enough and recently enough to have earned work credits. These work credits are what determine eligibility for SSDI. In general, you must have at least 40 work credits to be approved for SSDI, and 20 of those credits must have been earned within the ten years just prior to the start of your disability. In 2022 a credit is earned by making an income amount of $1,510. Most adults can earn a maximum of four work credits per year by earning $6,040 or more per year.
The Differences Between SSI And SSDI
The main differences between SSI and SSDI involve age and income. SSI is used for disability as well as advanced age and is dependent upon limited income and resources. SSDI is used only for disability and is dependent upon work history. It is possible to receive both benefits if you have an established work history, limited income/resources, and a severe disability that prevents you from working.
Additionally, the two programs differ based on where the money for them is collected. SSI is funded by the U.S. treasury, meaning it comes from taxes. SSDI, on the other hand, is funded by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). In short, the elderly and the disabled with low incomes are cared for by tax contributions. Disabled people who cannot continue working are cared for by funds they contributed while they were still able to work.
Substantial Gainful Activity
The SSA has a list of disabilities that it considers severe enough to warrant SSDI or SSI benefits. These disabilities range from mental disorders to amputated limbs. As an alternative, you need to prove that your disability prevents you from being able to perform what SSA calls “substantial gainful activity.” In 2022, the substantial gainful activity amount is $1,350 for an individual and $2,226 for a blind individual. Therefore, if you are physically and mentally able to earn more than that amount per month or work full-time, disability will be denied.
Federal Benefit Rate
The Federal Benefit Rate is the maximum monthly amount paid to an individual who qualifies for SSI. Much like the substantial gainful activity amount, the number changes from year to year based on the consumer price index. In 2022, the Federal Benefit Rate is $841 for an individual and $1,261 for a couple. The SSA does not count all your income when determining your SSI eligibility. It is possible to make more than the Federal Benefit Rate and still receive a small amount of SSI per month. It can be complicated, but an experienced Social Security attorney can help you with the exact amount you can expect based on your specific situation.
How To Apply
You can apply for Social Security benefits online here or by calling your local Social Security office. You can apply for SSI online only if you are an adult with a disability. When applying for a disabled child or a non-disabled senior citizen, you must call the office.
If you are ready to apply for SSI or SSDI benefits, an experienced Social Security attorney can help. Call Drew L. Johnson, P.C. Attorneys At Law, at (541) 434-6466, and let us guide you through the process, so your application is approved as soon as possible.