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Major Differences and Important Similarities between SSDI and SSI in Detail


Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income

Additional Information

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are two different programs. Both SSDI and SSI are administered by the Social Security Administration. Some people apply for and receive benefits under one or the other or, at times, both programs. Social Security will help you apply for the correct program(s).

While the definition of disability for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are identical, there are many technical eligibility differences between the programs. For both programs the applicant must fit into one of the categories of retirement, blindness, or disability. However, the technical requirements of eligibility are very different for each program.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI is an insurance program. Technical eligibility and the amount of benefits are tied to payroll deductions. If sufficient 'premiums' were paid in the form of FICA payroll deductions, eligibility exists. This is referred to as having sufficient quarters of coverage. Up to a limit, the higher the 'premiums' paid, the higher the dollar amount of the benefits received. The amount of FICA payroll deductions are a percentage of the amount of income received.

The basic rule is that a person must be both 'fully' insured and 'currently' insured. To be 'fully' insured an adult wage earner needs 40 "quarters" of coverage over their lifetime. However, younger wage earners may need as few as 6 quarters. To get a quarter of coverage the wage earner needs sufficient earnings within one quarter of the year. An example of a quarter is January, February, and March.

In addition to the 40 quarters 'fully' insured requirement, the wage earner must also be 'currently' insured. Within the last 40 quarters (10 years) they must have 20 quarters (5 years) of coverage. Simply put, out of the last ten years, the wage earner must have earned enough and paid sufficient FICA taxes for five years. If a wage earner has been working and paying FICA taxes non-stop for the last 5 years or more, their date last insured would be 5 years after the last quarter of the year they worked and earned enough in wages. Social Security's website has more information on this topic.

The last date a person is currently insured is called the Date Last Insured (DLI) and is a very important term for SSDI cases. If disability is not shown prior to the DLI, the claimant will not be eligible for any SSDI benefits.

There are additional technical requirements of eligibility for dependents who seek benefits on a wage earner's record. These requirements vary based upon which benefits are being sought. Many factors such as the legal relationship and the date of the onset of disability in relation to other events, such as the death of the wage earner, may be important. For example, a disabled widow may be eligible to receive benefits on her deceased husband's earnings record if she is at least age 50 and became disabled within 72 months of his death. The child of a retired or deceased worker may be eligible for disability benefits if the child became disabled prior to age 22 and never married.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is also administered by Social Security. However, it is a needs based program, intended to provide a basic amount of benefits. As of January 1, 2013, that basic amount is $710.00 a month for an individual or $1,066.00 a month for an eligible couple. That amount changes every year. SSI is given to disabled people who have not had sufficient payroll deductions to qualify for SSDI. No dependent benefits exist under this program.

Technical eligibility for SSI is tied to income and resources. Excess countable assets (such as money in the bank) completely disqualify an individual from receipt of these benefits. An individual may only have $2000 worth of countable assets and a couple may only have $3000. The amount of SSI benefits is determined by countable income. Countable unearned income reduces the basic SSI benefit dollar for dollar. Earned income reduces the amount of SSI benefits less than countable unearned income.

When Benefits Begin

The date benefits start is different for each program. Benefits can be paid as far back as 1 year prior to the date of the SSDI application. SSI benefits begin in the first full calendar month after the date of the application. Under the SSDI program, there is a 5 month waiting period from the onset of disability. No benefits are paid for that period of time. If any of the 5 months of the SSDI waiting period fall within the year prior to application, no benefits are paid for those months. There is no waiting period under the SSI program.

Eligibility for both SSDI and SSI

Often an individual will be eligible for both SSDI and SSI benefits at the same time. Not only must the person be disabled but they must also meet the technical requirements of each program. When eligible for both, the total benefits paid would usually be $20.00 more than the basic SSI benefit.

I am happy to review your situation with you if you have been denied for SSI or SDD in Connecticut.  Our consultations are always free.  Contact us at any time.


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