If you’re disabled, there are two options for receiving payments from the Social Security Administration:SSI and SSDI. You can save yourself some effort and aggravation by applying to the right one the first time.
First is the SSI (Supplemental Security Income) program. It’s a “means-tested” program. In other words, it’s based on financial need and only people with low income levels and few assets can qualify for it.
The other is SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). SSDI is an insurance program and works like Social Security retirement benefits in two ways. First, you’re only eligible to receive payments if you have a history of paying social security taxes (the ones called FICA on paystubs). Second, like Social Security retirement, eligibility for SSDI and payments are not based on income or assets.
Both SSI and SSDI define “disabled” in the same way. A recipient must have physical or mental impairments serious enough to prevent him or her from working—if the condition is not permanent or fatal, it is not expected to improve for at least 12 months.
What are some of the differences between SSI and SSDI?
Payment Amounts. Monthly SSI payments are based on the Federal Benefit Rate (in 2014 this was set at $721 for an individual and $1082 for a couple). The amount can be reduced by other income. The reduction can be offset by support programs like the Colorado Supplement program. In contrast, monthly SSDI payments are based on your lifetime average earnings covered by Social Security. If you receive Workers’ Compensation, or other government disability benefits, the formula will reduce your SSDI benefit.
Both SSI and SSDI payments are adjusted annually to reflect cost of living changes.
Relation to Health Insurance. SSI recipients are eligible for state Medicaid programs. SSDI recipients are offered Medicare coverage after two years if they are not already eligible.
Payment Schedule. SSD payments begin the month you first apply and are paid on the first day of the month. SSDI payments begin at the end of the fifth month after you become disabled and leave the workforce—in other words there is a five-month waiting period. SSDI payments are sent on fixed day each month depending on your date of birth.
Payments to Family Members. SSI does not make any payments to the family members affected by your disability. In contrast, SSDI can make partial payments to dependents under age 18, spouses, and disabled adult dependents.
Finally, can a person be eligible for both programs? Yes, the SSI payment calculation serves as a “cap.” If your SSDI payments are below that level, SSI can make up the difference.
If you’re disabled, you have enough challenges in your life without worrying about money. SSI and SSDI can help ease your financial pressure. The application process is seem complicated. Many eligible applicants are turned down because of errors, omissions, or misunderstandings.
If think you are be eligible for disability benefits, or would like further info about the difference between SSDI and SSI, please contact our social security disability attorneys for a free consultation.