There are two types of Social Security disability benefits programs that are operated by the Social Security Administration: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – which has been covered in detail above – and Supplement Security Income (SSI). Both are intended for persons with disabilities, although there are some stark differences between the two.
Social Security Disability Insurance – SSDI
As described above, Social Security Disability Insurance is for disabled persons and their family members in the event that an individual becomes disabled, and is thereby prevented from substantial gainful employment and income. This benefit type is only available to those who are ‘insured’ through Social Security by virtue of paying into the system during their working years. As such, only adults may qualifying for SSDI benefits. Further, your award amount under SSDI is based on the number of work credits you have acquired while working. The benefits are paid in the form of monthly cash benefits.
Supplemental Security Income – SSI
Unlike SSDI, SSI is available for persons who have not paid into the Social Security insurance pool (have not worked under Social Security). Instead, SSI benefits are intended for those persons who are aged, blind, or disabled and who are of limited income and resources. Eligibility for SSI benefits include being:
- Disabled; or
- Over 65 years of age; and
- Of limited resources;
- Of limited income; and
- A U.S. citizen or national.
SSI often provides benefits to children who are blind or disabled, who cannot qualify for SSDI benefits due to the fact that they are not working, nor have never, worked.
In order to qualify for SSI, a person can only make so much money per month and have so much in assets. Earned income, unearned income, in-kind income (food or shelter that is received for free), and deemed income (income from the spouse with whom the applicant lives) are all considered income in the eyes of the Social Security Administration, and may count against you. For the year 2016, the monthly income limit (the amount of money that you can make in a single month) is $1,551 per individual from wages; $753 per individual not from wages; $2,285 per couple from wages; and $1,120 per couple not from wages. If you make more money than this, you cannot qualify for Supplemental Security Income.
Receiving Both Benefit Types
In some cases, an individual may be able to apply and qualify for both benefits types – SSDI and SSI – simultaneously. This is known as receiving concurrent benefits. In order to qualify for concurrent benefits, a person must qualify for SSDI through their work record, but receive very low monthly SSDI benefits. Usually, this occurs if the applicant has worked very little over the past decade, became disabled shortly after beginning to work, or earned very little money over the course of their work history.
Because SSI is a financial need based program, a person may receive such a low monthly SSDI payment that their monthly income is still below the income limit threshold for SSI, allowing them to qualify for this benefit type as well.