If you are unable to work long-term (or permanently) as a result of disability, the Social Security Administration offers two types of benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
The names sound very similar, and it is easy to get them confused until you learn a bit more about each one. In this post, we’ll discuss the basic differences.
Social Security Disability Insurance
SSDI is a benefit that you need to earn through years of working and paying into the system (similar to Social Security retirement benefits). In addition to earning enough work credits (based on your age and employment history), you also need to have a qualifying disability.
Your disabling condition must meet several criteria:
- It must prevent you from engaging in any substantial gainful employment
- It must have lasted or be expected to last for at least one year or to result in death
- It must be a physical or mental impairment that is medically determinable
In short, you earn SSDI benefits through a qualifying work history, paying into the system and having a qualifying disabling condition.
Supplemental Security Income
By contrast to SSDI, Supplemental Security Income is need-based. It is often (but not always) granted to individuals who have never been able to work due to lifelong disability.
There is no work requirement because this program is financed by general revenue (not contributions from workers). To qualify, however, you must have an eligible disabling condition and have limited income and resources. If you gain additional resources (even modest ones), you could lose your benefits. Therefore, it is important to understand the financial rules and guidelines of SSI to ensure that you remain compliant.
Applying For Benefits
One very frustrating aspect of both SSDI and SSI is that getting approved for benefits is often much more difficult and time-consuming than one would expect. The application process can be tedious and require a lot of detailed paperwork and accompanying medical records. Many applications are rejected the first time and must be appealed.
For all these reasons and more, most applicants find it is very helpful to work with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney. To better understand your options, contact our firm for more information.