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Posted on in Social Security Disability

I was on the phone yesterday with a potential client who asked me "why would you apply for SSI and not SSDI or both for me?" Since this is the third time recently that I have been asked why I apply for a certain Social Security benefits program over the other, I think it is important for me to go over the similarities and differences of both programs. In addition, I'll delve into the possible scenario where a claimant can receive benefits under both programs.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) as the name suggests is a payroll tax-funded federal insurance program of the government and managed by the SSA. Eligibility is based on work history and the benefit amount is based on earnings. The benefit generally increases as the amount that you have paid into the insurance increases. Something I often have to be clear on is that it is NOT based on need or affected by other income or resources. According to the SSA, a claimant qualifies for SSDI if: "they have a physical or mental condition preventing them from engaging in any substantial gainful activity, the condition is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death, they are under the age of 65, and generally have worked 5/10 years as of the determined date of onset of the disability." SSA

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) by contrast is a needs based program of the government administered by SSA. To qualify, you my be 65 or older, blind, or disabled. You must have income within certain limits and have applied for the benefits. In 2008, the limited benefit amount was $637 per month and in 2009 that number increased to $674 per month.

While it is very rare for a person to receive benefits under both SSDI and SSI, it is in fact possible to achieve. The way it typically happens is the SSDI the claimant receives is less than the amount he or she could have received under SSI and SSI is used to increase that amount to $674. To give you an example, say I make application for a claimant and he or she wins $450 a month under SSDI. If that same claimant also applied for SSI and won benefits under it, SSI would increase the monthly total by $224 to give that person a total of $674 a month.

I understand that determining which program to apply for can be tricky and confusing at times. It is for this reason that it is vital to have an attorney or claimants representative with you every step of the way.

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