Many people ask about the difference between the benefits a claimant can receive under the Social Security disability program (SSDI) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.
While there are many differences between the programs, and your situation is different that that of everybody else, a few main differences are apparent. First, the SSI program in much like a welfare program to provide assistance to those who are disabled, blind and those over the age of 65. The SSDI program on the other hand provides benefits to disabled people who have paid into the system for 20 of the past 40 quarters. The SSI program has no requirement for payment into the system for 20 of the past 40 quarters.
Both the SSDI and SSI programs require that you establish that you are “disabled” as the term is defined by the federal statute and regulations. The term “disabled” is a term of art, and requires careful preparation of medical evidence, and presentation of medical evidence and your testimony, to meet the specialized requirements under the law.
In order to receive SSI benefits, there is also a means test, so that you will not be eligible to receive SSI benefits if you have assets valued in excess of $2000 for an individual or $3,000 per couple. This excludes, for the most part, the value of a home or a car that is used for work or getting to medical appointments. There are also income caps for both programs, but the SSI program is more lenient in that it permits more income to be disregarded in order to encourage claimants to work. As a general rule the SSDI program will disqualify you from receiving benefits if your substantial gainful activity (earnings) exceeds approximately $1,000 per month.
In fact, it is possible for a person to receive both SSI and SSDI if the amount of the SSDI payment is low enough. This amount then will be the SSI amount, plus $20. In addition, SSI payments may be received for the five month waiting period when no SSDI payments are made. Therefore, if you may qualify for both programs, it may make sense to apply for both. Your local SSA office will probably do that at the time you apply for benefits.
It is important to be ready with proof of disability as defined by the Social Security Administration at or near the time that you file for benefits, as many or even most people are denied benefits on their first application. The decision on the initial application often is made within three to four months. The wait for a hearing on appeal is substantial, and normally over a year. It is therefore often best to make certain that your medical information is ready at the time you file for benefits, or shortly thereafter.
Since your situation is different from that of every other person, it is important that you select a professional who can help with understanding the system, and getting your case prepared in the way that will best present your claim of disability to the Social Security Administration. Their goal is to review your evidence and to determine whether your claim is meritorious. A professional can help both you and them to make this determination, and to support your claim for SSDI or SSI benefits.
The fine print: As an important formality, be aware that we do not represent any person until we both agree in writing that we will represent you. We give legal advice on this web site, but only in the office. Meeting all time limits and deadlines imposed by the law remains your responsibility until we have a written agreement.