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Can I qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) if I qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

This is a common question but to answer this question it is important to understand the difference between the two programs. Below is a short explanation about each of the two disability programs offered by the Federal Government and administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides disability payments to employees who have a severe mental or physical health condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months or result in death and does not allow the employee to perform work at a “substantial level."

In addition to the medical criteria established by the Social Security Administration (SSA), workers must also have worked long enough and paid enough in payroll taxes to be considered “insured” by the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration has established the amount of work credits which must be accumulated by disabled workers to qualify for SSDI, and the number of work credits needed for Social Security Disability Insurance can vary if the worker is disabled at a young age. Most workers will need approximately 20-40 work credits to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income or SSI is monthly cash assistance given to the aged (65 years or older), blind or disabled. SSI applicants do not have to have worked or accumlated work credits to qualify but they must meet very specific income and resource requirements. SSI claimants must also be unable to work for at least 12 continuous months.

Social Security Administration disability approval process

What generally happens in the SSD application process is the Social Security Administration will first consider whether or not you, the applicant, meets the nonmedical requirements of the SSDI program: you are not working at a substantial level, your condition will last at least 12 months and you have sufficient work credits.

If you meet the nonmedical requirements the SSA will request your medical records and begin to determine if your condition is severe, on their SSA listing or impairments or whether or not you have the residual functional capacity to work your current job, any previous jobs or retrain for new work.

What happens if you are not working and your condition is expected to last for 12 continuous months but you do not have sufficient work credits for the SSDI program? The SSA will evaluate your income and resources levels and determine if you qualify for Supplemental Security Income. What happens if your income or resources or those of your spouse are too high? You will not qualify for SSI, regardless of the severity of your health condition.

So to answer the question, if you are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits it is probably because the SSA already determined you did not have enough work credits and you did not qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Hiring a SSD Lawyer

Not all claimants will need legal assistance; in fact, many claimants qualify the first time they apply for either SSI or SSDI. Unfortunately, however, up to 70% of claimants are denied and may want to seek legal help to appeal their disability denial.