Two Social Security programs provide benefits to people with disabilities. Sometimes, people can simultaneously qualify for benefits under its Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs.
SSDI and SSI
To receive SSDI and SSI benefits, individuals must fall within the definition of a disability. This is a physical or mental health condition that is severe enough to prevent a person from performing most work for at least a year.
SSDI benefits are provided to recipients regardless of their financial situation. Eligibility depends on how long an individual was employed in work in which they paid Social Security taxes. Payment amounts are based upon average lifetime earnings.
SSI is a needs-based program. It provides benefits to individuals with a disability, blind or at least 65-years-old with low incomes and limited financial resources. SSI is unrelated to employment history and payment of Social Security taxes.
Individuals are ineligible for SSI if their countable income is higher than a threshold set by the federal government. In 2021, this is $794 a month for individuals and $1,191 for couples.
SSDI and other benefits are countable. But $20 a month is exempt from that calculation. A person who receives a SSDI benefit over $814 is ineligible for SSI. A person receiving SSDI benefits below that, however, may receive SSI which will be reduced by most of the SSDI benefits.
For example, a person qualifying for SSI and an SSDI benefit of $400 will receive reduced SSI benefits of $380 after the $20 exemption. This recipient will still receive $400 in SSDI benefits and SSI benefits of $414 per month. This was calculated by subtracting $380 from $794.
Combined benefits are capped by the SSI maximum. But there are benefits for receiving SSDI and SSI benefits.
A recipient qualifying for a low SSDI benefit because of low wage employment or a short work history can receive SSI benefits before they may return to work.
Also, SSDI benefits begin in the sixth month after the date Social Security determines that a person has a disability. SSI does not have this waiting period and individuals can receive SSI benefits while they wait for SSDI.
Concurrent claims assist with health care. SSDI recipients are eligible for Medicare, but that coverage usually does not begin until that person was receiving benefits for 24 months.
SSI recipients in most states qualify for Medicaid which can help pay for health costs until Medicare begins. Once benefits begin, a person may stay on Medicaid which also pays for some costs that are not covered by Medicare.
Social Security eligibility rules are complicated. Attorneys can help assure that rights are not surrendered.