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Should I apply for ssi or ssdi?

The Federal Government has two disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Each of these programs provides monthly cash assistance to individuals who are severely disabled with a severe health condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months and does not allow the individual to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA).

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI is only for workers who are considered 100% disabled. The SSA does not award partial disability payments and does not provide SSDI for short-term conditions.

The Social Security Administration has the same process for determining the disability status for workers whether they are applying for SSDI or SSI. The main difference is workers who qualify for SSDI must have worked long enough and paid enough in payroll taxes to be considered “insured” by the SSA.

The Social Security Administration determines the number of work credits which must be accumulated by disabled workers to qualify for SSDI, and the number of credits needed to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance can vary if you become disabled at a young age. Generally, most workers will need approximately 20-40 work credits to qualify for SSDI.

Qualifying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income or (SSI) is for individuals who have been determined disabled by the SSA but do not have enough work credits for SSDI benefits. It is awarded 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 (SSI) is a “needs” based program and is only provided to claimants who have VERY limited income and resources and who meet additional non-economic considerations. Claimants who are attempting to qualify for SSI due to a disability must also be unable to work for at least 12 continuous months.

Which disability benefits can I get?

One issue that seems to confuse claimants is how the SSA determines disability. As mentioned above, the SSA uses the SAME criteria to determine disability for both programs. Before you apply for either SSDI or SSI the main thing you need to do is review the nonmedical requirements for each program.

If you do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI than your only option would be to either go back to work or apply for SSI. Because SSDI generally pays more benefit than SSI claimants who have sufficient work credits should always apply for SSDI.

Now assuming you lack work credits for SSDI benefits and you are considering applying for SSI you must make sure your resources and income are below the allowable limits. Consider, however, that if you are married to someone making too much money or living with your parents their income may also be considered and you could be disqualified from receiving SSI benefits even if you are severely disabled.
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