There are several different types of Social Security Disability benefits. The primary two are Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (commonly shortened to SSD, SSDI or DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). We are commonly asked whether the claimant should file for SSD, SSI or both.
I hate to say this, but the answer really depends on your individual circumstances. Those who do not have enough work credits and have limited income, assets, and resources should apply for SSI. Anyone who has worked long enough to earn enough work credits (quarters of coverage) should apply for Social Security disability. But keep in mind that many people may qualify under both programs of benefits. You should contact a lawyer who handles Social Security disability cases or contact Social Security directly to see what benefits you may qualify for.
What is the Difference Between Social Security Disability and SSI?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) manages two programs that provide benefits based on disability or blindness, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.
Social Security Disability Insurance Program (SSDI) (Title II) (Title 2)
SSDI provides benefits to disabled or blind individuals who are “insured” by workers’ contributions to the Social Security trust fund. These contributions are based on your earnings (or those of your spouse or parents). In order to qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have earned enough credits by paying your Social Security taxes as required by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). Title II of the Social Security Act authorizes SSDI benefits.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) (Title XVI) (Title 16)
The SSI program makes cash assistance payments to aged, blind, and disabled individuals (including children) who have limited income and resources. There is no work history requirement. The Federal Government funds SSI from general tax revenues. Many states pay a supplemental benefit to individuals in addition to their Federal benefits. Some of these states have made arrangements with Social Security to combine their supplemental payment with Social Security’s Federal SSI payment into one monthly check to you. Other states manage their own programs and make their payments separately. Title XVI of the Social Security Act authorizes SSI benefits.
|SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY INSURANCE||SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME|
|Eligibility||A disabled individual must have paid Social Security taxes and earned enough work credits to become insured for benefits.||A disabled or blind adult or child must meet all of the following categories:|
1. Have limited income;
2. Have limited resources;
3. Be a U.S. citizen or national (or in one of certain categories of aliens); and
4. Live in the United States or Northern Mariana Islands.
|Payment||The monthly disability benefit amount is based on the Social Security earnings record of the insured worker.||The monthly payment is based on need and varies up to the maximum federal benefit rate. Some states add money to federal SSI payments.|
|Medical Coverage||The worker will get Medicare coverage automatically after receiving disability benefits for two years.||In most states, beneficiaries are automatically eligible for Medicaid.|
Can You Qualify for Both SSDI and SSI Disability Benefits?
Some claimants only apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD or SSDI for short) benefits. Others only apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. However, in some instances claimants may qualify for both SSDI and SSI benefits. Applying for both types of benefits is called a “concurrent claim.”
Under certain circumstances, a claimant may be eligible to collect SSI and SSDI at the same time (called “concurrent benefits”). This typically happens when a disability applicant is approved for SSDI but only receives a low monthly payment.[Note: A low SSDI payment can be caused by not working much in recent years or making low wages.]
Qualifying for SSI
In order to qualify for an SSI payment in addition to (or concurrently with) an SSDI payment, the claimant must have less than $783 per month of unearned income (this is the rate in 2020). Generally speaking, the SSI income limits can be fairly complicated. The income limit is higher in some states than others. And if you are working and making some earned income, an even different limit applies. The SSI program also has asset limits, which means that you can only have a limited amount of cash savings, valuable property and other assets to qualify for SSI. Similar to qualifying for food stamps, you must prove you are “poor enough” to qualify for SSI.
In the end, if (1) your monthly income and overall assets are low enough to qualify for Supplemental Security Income, and (2) you have also worked long enough in one or more jobs and paid sufficient Social Security taxes into the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) system to earn enough work credits, you may qualify to receive both types of benefits at once.However, you keep in mind that your SSDI payment is included as income in calculating whether you are eligible for SSI. In some cases, your SSDI payment will be so high you may not qualify for SSI benefits.
Monthly Payment of Concurrent SSDI and SSI Benefits
SSDI and SSI benefits do not “stack” on one another. In other words, you don’t add the entire amount you may qualify for under each program together. You cannot receive a higher monthly combined benefit than you would otherwise receive under the SSI program alone. Your SSI payment amount will be lowered by the amount of your SSDI payment to match the maximum SSI payment amount.
For example, if your SSDI benefit is under $783 per month (the current maximum SSI monthly payment amount in 2020) and you qualify for SSI, you will receive an SSI payment for the difference between your SSDI benefit and $783. For example, if you are eligible to receive $500 in SSDI benefits and you are eligible to receive SSI, you would receive $500 in SSDI and $283 in SSI ($783 minus $500) each month for a total of $783.
In short, if your SSDI benefits are less than $783 per month, you may receive both SSI and SSDI benefits at once.
How You Apply for Concurrent Benefits
Most claimants are not aware that there are two programs of disability with the Social Security Administration. So how can you be sure to apply for the right one or both? Whether you apply for SSI, SSDI (also called SSD), or both, your local Social Security district office will evaluate your income and assets and determine whether your claim is concurrent. The category of your disability claim (SSI, SSDI, or both) will not make a difference as to how the medical evaluation of the claim is processed. In other words, an SSI claim will be medically reviewed in exactly the same way as an SSDI claim. The same definition of disability and the same disability evaluation process is used for both programs of benefits.
The Benefits of a Concurrent Claim
The benefit of collecting SSI when you are collecting monthly SSDI benefits of less than $783 a month is that the SSI payment will raise your total benefits up to $783 per month.
On the flipside, a benefit to being able to collect SSDI when you are also eligible for SSI is that you may be eligible to receive Medicare health insurance benefits as an SSDI recipient. [Note: There is a two year wait time before Medicare benefits kick in. You must wait two years from when your SSDI eligibility begins to qualify for Medicare benefits.]
In contrast, SSI recipients are eligible to receive Medicaid benefits alone. Although Medicaid does provide payment for more services overall than Medicare, more doctors accept Medicare coverage, so it may be easier to find a Medicare provider.