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SSDI- How is it different than welfare and unemployment?

Recently on our disability forum we had an applicant ask, “How is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) different than unemployment benefits or welfare?”

Although the Federal Government does offer a variety of programs to help individuals who are unable to work, each program has different criteria and qualifying for one will not necessarily mean you will have the right to all three.


What are unemployment benefits?


Unemployment benefits weekly cash payments offered to workers who claim they are able to work but cannot find a job. To collect unemployment a worker must become unemployed through no fault of their own (layoff or termination which is not related to the employer’s job performance), and they generally have to have been employed for a specific length of time.

Unemployment benefits were initiated under the Social Security Administration in 1935 and are currently regulated by the United States Department of Labor. The amount of employment benefits paid to employees is generally based on the workers’ previous income, but it can vary by state or jurisdiction.

What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?


The Social Security Disability Insurance program or SSDI is a disability program which provides monthly cash disability payments to workers who have a severe mental or physical health condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months. To be qualify for SSDI benefits you must prove that your condition does not allow you to perform what the SSA terms substantial gainful activity or SGA work.

SSDI varies from unemployment benefits because an SSDI recipient cannot have the capability to work and will therefore not be currently seeking employment. While some SSDI recipients do work VERY part-time, if they work too much or make too much money the SSA can determine they are no longer disabled and eventually terminate their SSDI benefits.

SSDI is administered by the Social Security Administration and qualifying recipients will have to have worked in the past and paid enough in employment taxes to be considered insured.

What is Welfare?


The term “welfare” in its most general context refers to any type of assistance that the United States Federal Government offers to low income citizens, including monthly cash assistance, food stamps and housing assistance. Currently most people using the term “welfare” are specifically referring Aid to Families with Dependent Children, which is now known as Transitional Assistance to Needy Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC).

This program is considered a federal program but it is administered by the states and provides cash payments and health benefits to families with dependent children. To qualify for TAFDC you must have limited assets and resources and meet specific work requirements. You also must have a dependent child or be pregnant. State rules and requirements vary, but generally the applicant must also be seeking employment.

Hiring a Disability Lawyer


If you hare disabled and unable to work you and you have sufficient work credits you can talk to a disability lawyer about your options for applying for SSDI benefits.
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