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Will I lose my SSI benefits?

Every day on our disability forum we get questions from users about questions applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Many users are already getting benefits and wonder why their benefit amount is so low or if they may also qualify for additional benefits. Generally, their questions arise when they have a general misunderstanding of the SSDI or SSI process.

Recently we had a user ask if they would lose their Supplemental Security Income benefit if they applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Answering this question requires more information about when SSDI is offered to a disabled applicant and when it is not.

What is SSDI and why was I given SSI instead?


Social Security Disability Insurance is awarded to disabled workers who have a severe debilitating health condition which is so severe it is expected to last for 12 continuous months and does not allow the worker to continue to perform substantial gainful activity. Workers must also have worked and earned enough “work credits” by paying into the SSA system to be considered insured by the SSA.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is also a wage replacement program provided to the disabled, blind or aged (65 years of age or older) who are unable to work but to qualify a worker does not have to have worked and earned work credits.

The SSA uses the same criteria for SSDI or SSI to determine whether a worker is disabled. What does this mean? Whether you get SSDI or SSI is strictly based on whether you have sufficient work credits for SSDI. If you do not have enough work credits you will not get SSDI and you will have to determine if you qualify for SSI.

Given SSI but I want SSDI


We get a lot of questions about whether or not an applicant can get SSDI in addition to or instead of their SSI benefit. Generally claimants are paid more on SSDI and may be unsatisfied if they are awarded SSI instead of SSDI. So can you apply for SSDI if you are getting SSI?

If you are getting SSI the SSA has made a determination that you are 100% disabled but you did not have enough work credits for SSDI at the time you filed your disability application.

So what happens if you apply for SSDI and you are receiving SSI? Nothing, you will be automatically denied SSDI benefits because you lack the work credits for SSDI. So unless you have generated more work credits working part-time while you were on SSI, there is no reason to apply for SSDI, you will continue to be denied.

How can I get more SSI money?


Supplemental Security Income is based on the annual Federal Benefit Rate (FBR).  For 2012, the Federal Benefit Rate is $698 per month for an individual and $1,048 per month for a couple. That means the most you can receive individually from the Federal Government on SSI is $698 per month.  Some states, however, will add what they call a “state supplemental payment” which may make your payment higher in certain states.

Claimants may lower their SSI payments if they work too much or if they live with someone who is paying for their food and shelter. So can you get more SSI money? Only if you are getting less than the federal benefit rate, otherwise, no. Talk to a disability lawyer for more information.
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