Disability can strike at any time, and when it does it frequently causes financial hardship along with emotional and/or physical pain. When an individual is unable to work for the foreseeable future, they may qualify for a federal assistance program that can help replace the income lost because of the disability. Both the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program offer monthly monetary assistance to those who qualify. The Grand Forks estate planning attorneys at German Law help you understand the general guidelines for both the SSI and the SSDI program.
SSI and SSDI Basics
Because they offer similar benefits, people frequently use the names of the programs interchangeably even though they are two quite different programs. Both SSI and SSDI are funded by the U.S. federal government through the Social Security Administration. In addition, both programs provide monthly monetary assistance to individuals who meet the federal government’s definition of “disabled.” Specifically, to be considered disabled for purposes of SSI or SSDI eligibility you must be able to prove that:
- You cannot do work that you did before;
- The SSA decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
If you meet the definition of disabled, you have made it over the first hurdle. At that point it becomes important to understand more about each program.
Qualifying for SSDI
Eligibility for SSDI is linked to your work history. Specifically, you must have a sufficient work history prior to your disability to qualify. Working earns you “work credits” that you need to qualify for SSDI. The number of “work credits” you need will depend on your age at the time of application; however, most applicants need to have earned 20 credits during the preceding 10 years. A work credit is earned by earning a designated amount, subject to change each year to keep up with inflation, up to a maximum of four credits a year. If you qualify for SSDI, your dependents may also qualify for monthly benefits based on your work record. Because SSDI benefits are based on your work history, the monthly benefit you receive will almost always be higher than the current SSI benefit.
Qualifying for SSI
Qualifying for SSI, on the other hand, is not based on your work history. Instead, eligibility for SSI is based solely on your income and resources. To qualify, you must have income and resources that are below the program limits. The resources limit for an individual is $2,000 and for a married couple $3,000. Unlike the SSDI program, SSI benefits are not available to family members; however, eligibility for SSI can automatically make you eligible for other assistance programs, such as Medicaid, and SNAP (food stamps). The maximum SSI benefit, referred to as the “Federal Benefit Rate (FBR),” considerably less than the maximum SSDI amount. The FBR increases annually if there is a Social Security cost-of-living adjustment. In addition, some states provide a state supplement which is added to the federal SSI benefit payment.
Applying for SSDI and SSI
Applying for SSDI can be done online through the SSA website. The same is true for applying for SSI. Unfortunately, almost 70 percent of initial SSDI and SSI applications are denied, often because of incomplete applications or because of missing information. The good news is that you can appeal a denial. If your application for SSDI or SSI was denied, consult with an experienced elder law attorney about your appeal rights.
Contact a Grand Forks Estate Planning Attorneys
Please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about using DIY estate planning forms, contact a Grand Forks estate planning attorney at German Law by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.