Contrary to what many people believe, disability is not a concern that is limited to the elderly. The reality is that you could suffer a temporary, or permanent, disability at any time during the course of your lifetime – though the odds do increase with age. Fortunately, the United States government has programs that offer financial assistance to individuals who are disabled. Both the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program provide monetary assistance to disabled individuals who qualify. Though the programs are similar, they have different eligibility guidelines and often provide very different benefits. To help ensure that you receive all the benefits to which you may be entitled, the Indianapolis elder law attorneys at Frank & Kraft explain the differences and similarities between SSI and SSDI.
Are You Disabled?
The first hurdle you must get past if you wish to qualify for either (or both) SSI or SSDI is to prove that you meet the definition of “disabled.” Because both SSI and SSDI are administered by the U.S. federal government through the Social Security Administration (SSA), both programs use the same definition of “disabled” when evaluating an applicant. Specifically, for the purpose of the SSI or SSDI program, you must be able to prove that:
- You cannot do work that you did before;
- The SSA decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
If you meet the SSA definition of “disabled,” the only other eligibility requirement for the SSI program is that you have income and resources that fall below the program limits. The resources limit for an individual is $2,000 and for a married couple $3,000 in most states. Unlike the SSDI program, an applicant is not required to have a work history to qualify for SSI; however, the monthly benefits for SSI recipients are typically less than for SSDI recipients as well. In 2018, for example, the maximum SSI benefit, referred to as the “Federal Benefit Rate (FBR),” is $750 per month for individuals and $1,125 for couples. The FBR increases annually if there is a Social Security cost-of-living adjustment. In addition, some states provide a state supplement, ranging from $10 to $200, which is added to the federal SSI benefit payment.
Another difference between SSI and SSDI is that family members cannot benefit from an applicant’s eligibility for SSI benefits. You may, however, be automatically eligible for other government assistance programs, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), once you are approved for SSI benefits.
Social Security Disability Income SSDI
Qualifying for the SSDI program is more difficult; however, the benefits are typically better if you do get approved. To qualify for SSDI you must have a sufficient work history prior to becoming disabled. Working earns you “work credits” that you need to qualify for SSDI. The number of “work credits” you need will depend on your age at the time of application; however, most applicants need to have earned 20 credits during the preceding 10 years. A work credit is earned by earning a designated amount ($1,320 for the year 2018) up to a maximum of four credits a year if you earned $5,280 or more. Because SSDI benefits are based on your work history, the monthly benefit you receive will almost always be higher than the current SSI benefit. By way of example, the average monthly SSDI benefit for 2018 is $1,197 with a maximum benefit of $2,788. Another important benefit to qualifying for SSDI is that if you are found to be eligible, your dependents may also qualify for monthly benefits based on your work record.
Note: It is possible to receive both SSDI and SSI if your SSDI benefit is small enough that you meet the income limit for the SSI program.
How to Apply for SSI or SSDI
You can apply for both SSDI and SSI online through the Social Security Administration’s website. Unfortunately, about two out of every three initial applications for SSDI are denied which is why it is usually in your best interest to consult with an experienced elder law attorney if you feel you might be entitled to SSI or SSDI benefits before completing the application.
Contact Indianapolis Elder Law Attorneys
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns about SSI, SSDI, or any other elder law issues, contact the experienced Indianapolis elder law attorneys at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.
Mr. Kraft assists clients primarily in the areas of estate planning and administration, Medicaid planning, federal and state taxation, real estate and corporate law, bringing the added perspective of an accounting background to his work.