Eligibility for Benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

To be eligible for SSDI, you must meet the definition of “disabled” and also have worked long enough to have earned enough “work credits” with the Social Security Administration (SSA). The number of credits needed varies, depending on your age and the date you became disabled. If your disability starts during the three years between ages 21 and 24, you only need 1.5 years or 18 months of work credits. If your disability starts during the seven years between ages 24 and 31, you only need 3.5 years or 42 months of work credits. If your disability starts after age 31, you will need 5 years or 60 months of work credits during the ten years before you apply for SSDI benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI eligibility does not depend on your work history. Instead, it is based on your financial need. In general, SSI benefits are paid to individuals who are blind or disabled and who are 65 and older, younger adults who are disabled, and children under 18. To be eligible for SSI, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be blind, disabled, or are 65 and older;
  • Be either a U.S. citizen or meet certain specific non-citizen requirements;
  • Have a monthly income that does not exceed the federal benefit rate;
  • Have assets worth less than $2,000 per individual or $3,000 per couple.

Keep in mind that the value of the home you live in and the value of one car, regardless of value, if it is used to transport you or a family member living with you, are not considered in determining your eligibility for SSI.

Legal Editors: Anselmo Alegria and Wiliam E. Leavitt, February 2018 (updated August 2020)

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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