Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Every worker has a FICA deduction withheld from his/her paycheck. A portion of this deduction is used to fund the Social Security disability benefits program. SSDI is a disability insurance program for workers. A worker pays into the Social Security system, and in return the worker is eligible for disability benefits in the event he/she becomes unable to work.

In order to receive SSDI, you must be “eligible”. To be “eligible”, you must have paid Social Security taxes for a certain number of quarters. The required number of quarters varies depending upon your age. However, as a general rule, you need to have worked 5 of the 10 years prior to your disability.

You may also be eligible for SSDI if you are divorced or widowed, based upon your former spouse’s payment of Social Security taxes. If you are not an “eligible” person, you are not entitled to Social Security disability benefits and SSA will not look at your medical condition.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Some individuals are medically disabled but not eligible for SSDI because they have not worked long enough. The Supplemental Security Income program was created in an effort to help disabled individuals who did not qualify for SSDI.

The SSI disability program is a “needs based” program. In order to be eligible, an individual must meet financial limitations concerning Income and Resources. It is not necessary for an individual to have paid Social Security taxes in order to be eligible for SSI disability benefits.

Income. Income is any money you receive. SSA also includes as income such things as food, clothing or shelter. If you are married, SSA will include your spouse’s income and resources when deciding whether you qualify for SSI. If you are younger than age 18, SSA will include your parents’ income and resources.

Resources. In order to be eligible for SSI, your total resources must be less than $2,000. If you are married, your total marital resources must be less than $3,000. SSA counts resources (assets) such as real estate, bank accounts, cash, stocks and bonds in deciding whether you qualify for SSI.

If you meet the Income and Resource requirements, then SSA will investigate whether you are disabled.  If you have either more Income or more Resources than the regulations allow, you are not eligible for Supplemental Security Income disability benefits and SSA will not look at your medical condition.

The regulations concerning how the Social Security Administration determines whether a person is disabled are the same for the both the SSDI and SSI programs. The same 5 Step evaluation process is used in both disability programs.

I have outlined above the general rules that apply to SSDI and SSI. There are of course many exceptions to the general rules. If you think you may be eligible for disability benefits, please contact my office for a free evaluation.