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Can I apply for both SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

To answer this question it is important to understand the difference between the two disability programs offered by the Federal Government.

The first program is SSDI or Social Security Disability Insurance which is a wage replacement benefit provided to disabled workers who have a severe mental or physical health condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months and who are no longer able to work or to perform work at a “substantial level.”

To qualify for SSDI, workers must not be working at a substantial level and they must have worked long enough and paid enough in payroll taxes to be considered “insured” by the Social Security Administration (SSA). To be insured a worker must generally have 20-40 work credits, but the amount will vary based on the age of the claimant at the time they become disabled.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income is the second cash assistance program provided to the aged (65 years or older), blind or disabled who are not considered “insured” by the Federal Government but need cash assistance to meet their minimum monthly expenses.

Supplemental Security Income is a “needs” based program but it only provides cash assistance to claimants who have VERY limited income and resources. Claimants who are attempting to qualify for SSI due to a disability must also be unable to work for at least 12 continuous months.

Can I apply for both SSDI and SSI?

When a claimant applies for disability benefits the SSA will first determine if they meet the nonmedical criteria of the SSDI program and determine if they have enough work credits. If they do not have enough work credits for SSDI, they will be denied benefits regardless of the severity of their condition. At this point the claimant’s only option is to either return to work or apply for SSI benefits.

In the scenario listed above, the claimant may potentially qualify for SSI, but they will not get SSDI.

So what happens if you qualify for SSDI?

Claimants who meet the medical and nonmedical criteria of Social Security Disability Insurance are paid based on their average earnings and payroll tax contributions to Social Security. The more claimants have paid into Social Security, the more in monthly benefits they are entitled to receive.

The only way a claimant may get both SSDI and SSI benefits is if their SSDI payment is lower than the federal benefit rate (FBR), which is the maximum amount paid to SSI claimants. For instance, the Federal Benefit Rate is $674 per month for an individual and $1,011 per month for a couple in 2011. If the SSDI claimant’s payment is less than this they can contact the SSA to find out if they might also qualify for SSI benefits (assuming they meet the other requirements of the SSI program).

Hiring a Disability Lawyer

Do you have to hire a disability lawyer to apply for benefits? No, many claimants win benefits the first time they apply and they do not need legal assistance. If you have been denied, however, you have 60 days from the date of denial to file an appeal. A disability lawyer can help you with all disability appeals.