Although we often think of disability as something that occurs as we age, the reality is that anyone can become disabled at any time. A tragic accident or a debilitating illness could leave you incapacitated and unable to work tomorrow. If that were to occur, would your family suffer financially without your income? The odds are good that it would. Fortunately, we have several programs in the United States that are aimed at helping workers who cannot work because of a disability. Both the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) might provide you with income while you are disabled. The Beverly elder law attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices explain SSI and SSDI to help you decide if you might be eligible.
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
Are You Eligible for SSDI?
Eligibility for SSDI is linked to your work history. Specifically, you must have a sufficient work history prior to your disability to qualify. 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. If you qualify for SSDI, your dependents may also qualify for monthly benefits based on your work record. Because SSDI benefits are based on your work history, the monthly benefit you receive will almost always be higher than the current SSI benefit. The average monthly SSDI is $1,197 with a maximum benefit of $2,788 as of 2018.
Are You Eligible for SSI?
Qualifying for SSI, on the other hand, is not based on your work history. Instead, eligibility for SSI is based solely on your income and resources. To qualify, you must have income and resources that are below the program limits. The resources limit for an individual is $2,000 and for a married couple $3,000. Unlike the SSDI program, SSI benefits are not available to family members; however, eligibility for SSI can automatically make you eligible for other assistance programs, such as Medicaid, and SNAP (food stamps). In 2018, 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 which is added to the federal SSI benefit payment. The amount of the state supplement varies between states, from $10 to $200.
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 Can You 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 Beverly Elder Law Attorneys
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions about applying for, or appealing a denial of, disability benefits, contact the Beverly elder law lawyers at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.