When an individual becomes disabled, he or she must learn which Social Security disability benefits may be available. It is common for disability applicants to confuse “SSI benefits” with “SSDI benefits”, but these disability benefits are actually two distinct programs offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
For each Social Security disability program, you must prove that you meet the SSA’s definition of “disabled”. For adults, the SSA defines “disabled” as “unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death” or last for at least 12 continuous months. For individuals under 18 years of age, they must prove that they have a physical or mental condition(s) that very seriously limits his or her activities; and that condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 1 year or result in death.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, which are also known as Title II benefits, are available to disabled workers. SSDI benefits are truly an “insurance” program because for every year that an individual has worked, they have paid Social Security taxes to qualify for SSDI benefits. The Social Security taxes are much like an insurance premium that provides coverage if the worker becomes disabled.
To qualify for SSDI benefits, a worker must earn 20 Social Security credits in 10 years, although there are lesser requirements for individuals under 31 years old. In 2016, an individual must make $1,260 per quarter in order to earn a work credit. When someone stops working, their work credits eventually expire and they lose coverage of SSDI benefits. To qualify for SSDI eligibility, the disabled worker must show that they became disabled before these work credits expire.
SSDI benefits are available to individuals who have not reached full retirement age. In addition, SSDI benefits are for individuals who are not working full-time. If an individual is working and earning more than $1,130 gross income per month, then they will not be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
It is important to know that SSDI benefits may also be available to the spouses of deceased workers. If an individual never worked, but their deceased spouse has earned enough work credits, then they may qualify for this program. However, there are specific requirements: 1) the surviving spouse must be between the ages of 50 to 60 years old, 2) the surviving spouse meets the SSA’s definition of disability, and 3) the surviving spouse’s disability started before or within 7 years of the worker’s death.
SSDI benefits may also be available to the children of deceased, disabled, or retired workers. For a disabled child to receive SSDI benefits based on their parent’s work history, they must show that their disability started before age 22 and that they meet the definition of disability for adults. In addition, the “adult child” must be unmarried, age 18 or older, and have a disability that started before age 22. There is no requirement that the child has ever worked. Rather, the child is drawing SSDI benefits from their parent’s work history.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits
Unlike SSDI, eligibility for Supplemental Security Income benefits does not require a work history. Instead, eligibility for SSI benefits (also known as Title XVI benefits) is determined by limited financial resources. In 2016, individuals with less than $2000 of resources may be eligible for SSI benefits. For couples, the limit is $3,000 of resources. Certain types of resources do not count toward this limit, including owning a house in which you live or owning one vehicle if it is used for transportation for you or a member of your household. The full list of income and resources exceptions is available here.
There is also a list of reasons that disqualify individuals for SSI coverage, such as when an individual is in prison or jail or if they are a non-citizen who fails to meet the alien status requirements. Much like SSDI benefits, if an individual is working and earning more than $1,130 gross income per month, then they will not be eligible for SSI benefits. Generally speaking, if an individual qualifies for food stamps, this is usually a good indication that they will be eligible for SSI benefits.
Children may also be eligible for SSI benefits if their parents’ or guardians’ income is under the financial resources limits. As mentioned above, there is a different definition of disability for children.
Contact Keller & Keller to Assist You With Your SSDI or SSI Claim
If you have applied or are thinking about applying for Social Security disability benefits, contact Keller & Keller today for a free consultation. Call us at 1-800-253-5537.