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SSDI vs. SSI Disability Benefits

There are two types of disability benefits provided by the Social Security Administration: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI); and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Each program is uniquely designed to provide benefits to people who meet certain qualifications.

While Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is designed to support individuals who are disabled and can’t work, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are designed to support disabled adults and children with limited income and resources. SSI benefits are also available to people aged 65 and older without disabilities who meet specific income requirements.

SSDI
SSDI benefits are available for disabled workers, their disabled surviving spouses, and children (disabled before age 22) of disabled, retired or deceased workers. To be considered “disabled” under the Social Security’s strict definition:

  • You must be unable to do any substantial work because of your medical condition(s); and
  • Your medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 12 months, or be expected to result in your death.

In addition to being “disabled,” a person must also meet two different earnings tests in order to qualify for SSDI benefits:

  1. A “recent work” test based on the age at the time a person becomes disabled (which generally requires that people have worked five out of the 10 years before they become disabled); and
  2. A “duration of work” test to show the person has worked long enough under Social Security’s rules (this generally requires that the person have an average of six years of work if they are between ages 30 and 60. People ages 27 and younger need 3 years of work).

SSI
SSI benefits are available for some people with little or no income and resources; SSI does not require either of the “earnings tests” as SSDI. SSI is available for people who have low income and few resources and are age 65 or older, disabled, or blind. Whether people can get SSI depends on their resources and income.

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If you can’t work due to a disability, we know you need your benefits now. Our Social Security Disability attorneys can review your case and help you through the application process.

At Fields Law, you’re more than a case number – you’re a neighbor. If you have questions about disability benefits, Fields Law Firm has answers. The call is free. The advice is free. And there’s no obligation. Just dial 1-888-343-5375 or complete a free contact request form to Get Fields! on your side.

SSDI Disability Benefits

Most people do not think about becoming disabled. However, studies show that a 20-year-old worker has a 3 in 10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age. SSDI disability benefits are available for disabled workers, their disabled surviving spouses, and children (disabled before age 22) of disabled, retired or deceased workers.

SSDI benefits primarily consist of money paid to people who are disabled. “SSDI” refers to Social Security Disability Insurance. This is a national, federal program that is funded by the Social Security taxes that we pay.

How do I apply for SSDI disability benefits?
The easiest way to apply for SSDI disability benefits is online through Social Security’s website. Simply click on “Disability” at the top of the homepage and follow the links to apply for SSDI disability benefits.

What is the amount of SSDI benefits?
The amount of the SSDI benefits is based on a person’s lifetime earnings. The more a person has paid in Social Security taxes, the higher the amount of disability benefits the person will receive. Recently, the Social Security Administration has discontinued automatically sending annual Social Security Statements due to budget cuts. If you do not have a Social Security Statement and would like to know an estimate of your disability benefit amount, you can request one through the Social Security website or by calling 1-800-772-1213.

When do SSDI benefits start?
If your SSDI application is approved, the first SSDI benefits will be paid for the sixth full month after the date your disability began, and in the month after that. An example of this is as follows: if it is decided that your disability began on February 5th, your first SSDI benefits will be paid for the month of August. Because SSDI disability benefits are paid in the month following the month in which they were due, you will receive your August benefits in September.

Medicare
People who are approved for SSDI benefits will receive Medicare automatically after they have received disability benefits for two years.

Can I go back to work after receiving SSDI benefits?
After receiving SSDI benefits, some people want to try working again. The Social Security Administration has enacted special rules that will help people keep their cash benefits and Medicare coverage while they test their ability to work. These rules are called “work incentives” or “employment support” programs.

SSI Benefits

SSI benefits are paid in the form of a monthly check from Social Security to help offset the cost of living. SSI provides money to meet basic needs, and it is set up for disabled, blind, and persons age 65 and older who have little or no income.

Before Social Security starts paying SSI benefits, Social Security will send you a letter informing you of when your payments will start, and how much they will be. Your first SSI payment will be made for the first full month after you applied or became eligible for SSI. After this, the monthly amounts may not be the same each month.

The amount of SSI benefits depends on your other income and living arrangements. The first, second and third monthly SSI payments are based on your first month’s income. Social Security will send you a letter in advance if they change the amount of your payment.

If you have income for your first month of SSI, but not in the second month, Social Security calls it “nonrecurring income.” In this situation, the SSI benefit amount for the second and third month is based on the countable income from the first month, minus the nonrecurring income. After that, your SSI benefit amount is based on your income from two months before. As an example, assume a woman in Minnesota is receiving a $500 widow’s payment and a $270 SSI payment every month. In June, she wins $200 on a Minnesota lottery scratch-off ticket and reports it to her Social Security office. That means in August, her SSI benefit will be reduced to $70. Then, in September, her SSI payment goes back to $270.

SSI benefits usually increase each year to keep up with the cost of living. These cost of living increases will usually be in your January payment, which you will be notified of at the end of December.

If you want your SSI benefit by direct deposit:
You have the option of having your SSI payment directly deposited into your bank account. If you would like this option, tell your local Social Security office or contact your bank. Social Security now requires direct deposit. If you do not have your own bank account, they will issue you a debit card to deposit the money.

How do SSI benefits work?

SSI benefits can help provide basic needs, such as clothing, food, and shelter if you have limited income or resources and are:

  • Age 65 or older.
  • Blind, or suffer from a visual disability.
  • A disabled adult or child.

SSI benefits are awarded in the form of a monthly cash payment and vary based on your individual income, living arrangements, and other factors. Because these factors can change over time, SSI benefits are routinely reevaluated to ensure you continue to meet the requirements of the SSI program, based on resources and income.

Resources
If you have too many resources, you will not be eligible for SSI. In order to qualify for SSI, an individual’s resources cannot total more than $2,000, and couples’ resources cannot total more than $3,000. Resources include cash, money in bank accounts, real estate, and investments like stocks and bonds.

There are some things that are not included as resources for SSI:

  • A person’s first vehicle;
  • A person’s home they live on and the land where it is located;
  • Life insurance policies with a face value of $1,500 or less;
  • Burial plots for the applicant and immediate family members; and
  • The first $1,500.00 in burial funds for the applicant and up to $1,500 in burial funds for the applicant’s spouse.

Income
Social Security defines “income” as money received including Social Security benefits, pension and wages. Further things included in income are the value of food and shelter. The amount of income a person receives each month determines whether that person can receive SSI benefits. Children will have some of their parents’ income and resources included in determining their SSI benefit eligibility.

SSI Eligibility

Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is a federal program that makes monthly payments to some low income people. SSI eligibility requires that a person have little or no income and resources (defined below) and are age 65 or older, blind, or disabled.

Where do SSI benefits come from?
The Social Security Administration manages the SSI program. However, SSI is not paid for by Social Security taxes. SSI is paid for by U.S. Treasury general funds, not the Social Security trust funds. For this reason, SSI eligibility is greater than SSDI, or Social Security Disability Insurance, eligibility.

What qualifies as income?
Social Security defines “income” as money received including Social Security benefits, pension and wages. Further things included in income are food and shelter. The amount of income a person receives each month dictates whether that person can receive SSI benefits. In Minnesota, a person must earn no more than $980 to qualify for SSI disability benefits. However, Social Security will not count all income in deciding whether a person meets the SSI eligibility requirements. Social Security does not count the following things:

  • Food stamps;
  • Home energy assistance programs;
  • The first $65.00 per month a person earns from working and half the amount of money over $65.00;
  • The first $20.00 per month of most income person receives; and
  • Shelter received from non-profit organizations.

Children (people under 18-years-old) will have some of their parents’ income and resources included in determining their SSI eligibility.

Students who receive wages and scholarships can have some of that money not count toward their income in determining SSI eligibility.
Married people will have some of their spouse’s income and resources count in deciding their SSI eligibility.

What qualifies as resources?
The Social Security Administration counts resources including real estate, cash, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, in determining whether a person qualifies for SSI disability benefits. People may qualify for SSI eligibility if their resources total no more than $2,000.00. Couples may qualify for SSI eligibility if their resources total no more than $3,000.00. Social Security will not count everything people own in determining whether they have too many resources to get SSI benefits. Social Security will not count the following things:

  • A person’s first vehicle;
  • A person’s home they live on and the land where it is located;
  • Burial plots for the applicant and immediate family members;
  • Life insurance policies with a face value of $1,500 or less; and
  • The first $1,500.00 in burial funds for the applicant and up to $1,500 in burial funds for the applicant’s spouse.

How do I apply for SSI?
To apply for SSI, you should visit your local Social Security office. You cannot apply for SSI online. In some instances, Social Security will allow you to apply over the phone.

In addition to filing an application for SSI, you must complete two forms: a Activities of Daily Living or Function Report and a Work History Report. You can complete these reports at the time you apply if you apply in person at your local Social Security Office, or you can complete them online prior to visiting your local Social Security Office. If you wish to complete these forms online, go to www.ssa.gov, click on “SSI,” then “How do I apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI),” and then “Adult Disability Report.”

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I had the pleasure to work with Michael and Annie on my LTD case. When my claim was denied by the insurance carrier, Michael didn't hesitate to take them on with an appeal. He worked diligently on the appeal and ultimately won this for me. Mind you, this wasn't a huge case but he treated me like it was and as if I was the only case he was representing. He kept me abreast of vital information, it was clear that he knew his stuff and wasn't afraid to take on the big insurance company. Michael was much more than I ever expected given that our relationship was entirely remote, handled by telephone and email only. Not only is he a strong lawyer, he treated me with compassion and respect. I am beyond pleased with him and the Fields Law team. Michael cares about his clients and he gets the job done for them because he knows how impactful an injury can be to both a person's well-being and their financial security. I highly recommend Michael and Fields Law whether you are local to their Minnesota offices or out of state like myself.read more
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Fields Law Firm is great. Patrick Kramer, my lawyer, is fantastic. He and his legal assistant Samantha K. have handled my case for several years. They have kept me informed every step of the way. They are both easy to contact. I have both of their phone numbers and email addresses and they respond promptly to any messages I leave. Without their help I would not have been able to get the disability company to fulfill their promises. It is a relief to leave all the dealings with the disability insurance company in their hands.read more
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Fields Law Firm is simply the very best when it comes to representing you & fighting for your rights! They are a "10 Star" Law Firm hands down! Michael Kemmmitt & Sarah Christensen were simply outstanding to work with. They took over my long term disability case after I was being denied my benefits & gave me the moral support & law experience that I needed to win my case. They were supportive throughout my case & they will fight tooth & nail to assure your rights are not being denied. It is so rare to find a law firm that treats you like YOU are the most important person to them. I HIGHLY recommend Fields Law Firm. They are truly advocates for justice.read more
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