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SSI and SSDI: What’s the Difference?

Knowing the difference between Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be crucial for disabled workers and children, as well as low-income adults who are 65 years old and older. While many people wonder what the differences are between them, SSI and SSDI are far from adversaries. Instead, they are more akin to two sides of the same coin. Both SSDI and SSI enable those with disabilities and low-income seniors to attain the financial help they need. However, Social Security law is rather complex, and when requesting either form of assistance, it's easy to make a mistake.

What Is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Supplemental Security Income is an income supplement the Federal government provides to disabled, elderly, blind people to help them meet basic needs, such as shelter, clothing, and food. SSI is funded with money from general taxes, not from Social Security taxes.

Applying for SSI

If you are thinking about applying for SSI, you should speak with a Social Security lawyer before you do. SSI is designed to benefit disabled and blind men, women, and children, and adults over 65 with limited incomes.

Per the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), as of 2012, SSI benefits for an individual were $698 a month and for a married couple they were $1,048 a month. However, these amounts can be increased in states where subsidies are provided. SSI benefits can be decreased if the beneficiary has work income.

When a person applies for SSI, the Social Security Administration adds up an applicant’s resources. The Social Security Administration is in charge of managing the SSI program, despite its funds being drawn from general taxes and not Social Security taxes. An applicant’s resources include any money in the bank, personal property, and various other valuables. An individual applicant’s resources cannot exceed $2,000 or he or she will be denied SSI benefits. If a couple applies for SSI and their combined assets exceed $3,000, they will be denied SSI benefits. In most cases, one car and the home where the applicant lives are not counted when adding up their resources.

With such a large pool of applicants, it is important that you have all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed on your application to avoid being denied due to a preventable reason. In addition, you cannot receive SSI benefits for anytime before the effective date of your application, so every day you wait to apply, you are losing out on potential benefits.

How Does Social Security Disability Insurance Work?

Social Security Disability Insurance is a benefit that is part of the Social Security program. SSDI provides people who cannot work due to a disability or serious illness that will last at least a year or that will result with them dying within a year with monthly benefits. SSDI benefits are calculated according to how much a disabled worker was paid before he or she became disabled or seriously ill. Both workers and employers pay for the SSDI program when they pay the Social Security tax.

Who’s Eligible for SSDI?

To be eligible for SSDI, a disabled worker must have had a job that was covered by Social Security. SSDI benefits are paid to disabled workers and their dependents. SSDI is very strict. Therefore, disabled workers must be able to prove that they are not going to be able to work for at least a year due to their disability or serious illness. This includes not only whatever work a disabled person used to do, but also any type of work. A disabled or seriously ill person must not be able to take part in any type of gainful activity whatsoever. Gainful activity is defined as making over a certain amount of money. For example, in 2017, if a non-blind disabled worker made over $1,170 a month, he or she would not be eligible to collect SSDI benefits.

Common disabilities and illnesses for SSDI beneficiaries include:

  • Mental impairments
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Back injuries
  • Infectious diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Life-threatening conditions

What’s the Difference Between SSI and SSDI?

There are several differences between Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance. First, SSDI is an earned benefit, while SSI is provided to people who have limited income and little to no assets. When people work in the US, they and their employers pay Social Security taxes from their paychecks. That tax money is used to pay SSDI benefits to disabled workers who cannot work anymore due to their disability. SSI meanwhile does not require recipients to have contributed tax money through working to receive SSI benefits. SSI benefits are not paid from Social Security but instead are funded from general taxes.

Should I Talk to an Attorney Before Applying for SSI or SSDI?

Dealing with Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance applications can be extremely daunting. For those already facing obstacles, such as a disability or serious illness, trying to successfully secure SSI or SSDI benefits can be too much to handle on their own. Therefore, having an experienced Social Security disability attorney carrying the burden of submitting the application and guiding it through the process of being approved can be a lifesaver.

Disabled workers, low-income adults, those who are blind, and children with disabilities should not have to navigate the ins and outs of the SSI or SSDI application process alone. With the help of a Social Security lawyer, applicants and their families can concentrate on their wellbeing while a qualified attorney with a history of success makes sure their application is properly submitted.

Even if you are not sure if you or a loved one is eligible to collect SSDI or SSI benefits, you should speak with a Social Security attorney before you decide whether to apply. Many experienced lawyers will meet with you for free to discuss your situation. During the meeting, the lawyer will answer your questions, examine your situation, discuss whether you are eligible to apply for benefits, and talk to you about the application process and what the best options are for you and your family. They can also help if your Social Security Disability benefits are denied.


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