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SSI benefits awarded not SSDI benefits?

The Federal Government offers two different types of disability benefits: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). It is not unusual for a claimant to apply for SSDI benefits only to find they do not qualify for them. In some cases, however, the claimant may qualify for SSI benefits. Recently on our disability forum a user asked, “Why would I be given SSI benefits instead of SSDI benefits?”


Receiving SSDI benefits


SSDI benefits are offered to disabled claimants who have worked, paid taxes, and earned sufficient work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits. Claimants also cannot currently be working or performing substantial gainful activity.

In addition to the nonmedical requirements outlined above, however, the claimant must also have a severe condition which is expected to last at least 12 continuous months. If the claimant’s condition is short-term and will not last at least a year, the claimant will automatically be denied SSDI benefits, regardless of the current severity of their condition.

So let’s address the question. Supplemental Security Income, like SSDI, is given to the disabled who are unable to work and perform substantial gainful activity for at least 12 continuous months. So assuming you meet this criterion, the question really is whether or not you have sufficient work credits to receive SSDI benefits. Unfortunately, insufficient work credits are the primary reason claimants are denied benefits.

How many work credits do I need to qualify for SSDI benefits?


According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), “The number of work credits needed for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.” So, assuming you are 31 or older, you will need 20 work credits to receive SSDI benefits.

What if you do not have enough work credits? Unfortunately, there is no way to receive work credits without working. You cannot borrow work credits from a spouse. You cannot buy work credits from the SSA. To qualify for SSDI benefits you will have to work, generate income, and accumulate work credits on your own work record.

What if you cannot return to work and generate additional work credits? You will not qualify for SSDI benefits. You will only receive SSI benefits.

Are SSDI benefits better than SSI benefits?


SSDI benefits generally provide a higher monthly payout than SSI benefits, and SSDI recipients will also receive Medicare. The SSI monthly payout is established by law and is referred to as the Federal Benefit Rate. It is raised periodically but not by much. SSI recipients will receive Medicaid benefits, but sometimes it can be difficult to find doctors willing to provide medical care.

The Bottom Line:


Unfortunately, if you have been given SSI benefits, because the medical criterion is the same, it will probably be because you did not have sufficient work credits to qualify for SSDI Benefits. As mentioned above, the only way to accumulate more work credits is to return to work.

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