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Do I qualify for SSDI and SSI Social Security Benefits?



The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides two benefits based on disability or blindness: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While they both provide benefits for people who are “disabled”, SSDI and SSI differ in several ways.

To receive SSI or SSDI benefits, a person must have a “disability”. Social Security defines disability as: 1) a medically-determined physical or mental impairment which has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least 12 months, or is expected to result in death, and 2) because of this impairment, a person is not able to work in any “substantial gainful activity” (SGA.) Social Security determines that a person is able to work in SGA, if the employment income the person receives is over a certain amount.

SSDI provides benefits to persons who: 1) are “disabled” and 2) are “insured” by the Social Security trust fund. To qualify as “insured,” a person must have worked for a certain length of time, and  while working, paid FICA (Federal Insurance Contribution Act) taxes. Eligibility for SSDI does not depend on a person’s current income or resources.

SSI provides benefits to persons who: 1) are aged, blind or disabled (including children) and 2) have limited income and resources. A person is considered “aged” for SSI at the age of 65 years.

To be eligible for SSI, a person’s current income and resources cannot be over the specific dollar amounts or limits set by Social Security. Some types of income and resources are not counted, such as food stamps, home energy assistance, tax refunds, or tuition scholarships, among others.

In some cases, a child may qualify for SSI. Social Security defines a “child” as a person who:

1) is either under age 18 or under age 22 and regularly attends school, and

2) is not married or head of a household

For a child to be eligible to receive SSI benefits:

1) a child must be either disabled or blind, and

2) a portion of the income and resources of the child’s parents cannot be over a certain amount or limit.

Once a person qualifies to receive SSDI or SSI benefits, it is important to read notices from SSA and follow the program rules; otherwise, those benefits could be terminated. If benefits are terminated by SSA, the recipient can appeal the decision by following the directions on the notice or calling Legal Aid to apply for help at 1.888.817.3777.

This article was written by Karen Seawall and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!