Social Security Disability Insurance & Supplemental Security Income

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides two types of disability benefits for eligible persons — Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is sometimes referred to as “SSD.” The federal government runs the SSDI and SSI programs. Some states add a small amount of cash payments to the SSI payments by the federal government.

If you qualify, both programs provide you with income, or extra income. SSDI is for people who can no longer work due to blindness or a disability, and have worked for at least 5 out of the last 10 years, and have already “paid into” the system. Paid into the system means you worked on the books and had payroll tax deductions. SSDI benefits may also be payable to the children under 18 years of age and a surviving spouse of a disabled or blind worker.

SSI benefits are for those who do not qualify for SSDI because they did not work long enough to earn enough credits, but who still need help either because they are elderly (65 or older), blind or disabled and they have low income and few assets. Few assets usually means having cash and valuables of no more than $2,000 for individuals and no more than $3,000 for couples. In addition, if you have a disability and qualify for SSDI, you may also eligible for SSI if the amount of SSDI you receive is below a certain dollar amount.

The SSA defines “disability” more specifically than you would think. You will not be eligible for benefits if you do not fit within that specific definition. For instance, you must have a physical or medical condition that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months, or that will result in death, and you must be prevented from working at your current position or in a similar position due to that disability, and the disability must be the main reason you are not working. The SSA will be looking at the degree to which you can do basic work activities, like how long you can sit, stand, walk, and how much you can lift, and whether you can get along with supervisors and co-workers , and whether you can use good judgment.

The person applying for benefits is called a “claimant.” You can apply for disability benefits in a number of ways, including in person, by telephone, by mail, or online.

Legal Editors: Anselmo Alegria and Wiliam E. Leavitt, February 2018

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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