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What are the Differences Between SSDI and SSI Benefits?

March 30, 2018 Blog

If you are suffering from a disabling condition, then you may be wondering about the possibility of disability benefits pursuant to a government program.  Many potential claimants are aware of the existence of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs but are unfamiliar with the details.

Despite the fact that both are federally-administered programs that provide benefits to those who have suffered a serious disability, many potential claimants do not understand the ways in which these two programs differ from one another — this confusion can lead to delays, claim denials, and more.

SSDI and SSI — the Differences

Unsure about whether you qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits?  There are a number of significant differences between the two programs that may not only affect your eligibility, but also the benefits that you are entitled to receive.

Consider the following.

Need-Based Qualification vs. Work-Based Entitlement

Though both SSDI and SSI benefits programs are handled by the Social Security Administration, and both rest on a strict definition of “disability” in which a claimant may only receive benefits if they can prove that they are totally disabled, the two programs are not administered with the intention of targeting the same individuals.  The requirements reflect this difference in intent.

SSDI is a work-based entitlement program.  Disability claimants who have “paid into” the Social Security system for a minimum of ten years may be eligible to receive SSDI benefits, so long as the claimant can prove that they are actually disabled (in accordance with the SSDI definition of disability).  If you do not have a work history that qualifies, you will not be eligible to receive SSDI benefits, even if you are legitimately disabled.

By contrast, a disability claimant may qualify for SSI benefits on the basis of financial need.  The claimant need not have paid into the Social Security system or have a lengthy work history.  The claimant need only prove that they are: 1) disabled, and 2) meet the financial requirements for SSI benefits.  The financial, need-based income requirements can be rather stringent.  If you have more than $2,000 in cash, or in a bank account (as a single person), or $3,000 (as a married couple), then you will be disqualified from SSI eligibility.

SSDI Benefits are Proportional to Income

SSDI benefits tend to be more significant than SSI benefits, which is sensible, given that SSDI benefits are awarded — at least partly — on the basis of the disabled claimant having paid their dues into the Social Security system.  Whereas SSI benefits pay out a fixed monthly income amount (less than $800), SSDI benefits pay out a portion of one’s earnings record.

For example, if you were a high-earning professional prior to an accident that left you disabled, you might qualify for significant monthly SSDI benefits.  As a general rule, SSDI benefits are of much greater value to those who were not low-income “edge earners.”

SSI Beneficiaries May Have to Reorganize Assets

Remember, SSI benefits are need-based.  If the SSI beneficiary has or gains substantial assets/income, they may be disqualified from receiving such benefits.  Given the risk of disqualification, some SSI beneficiaries are forced to reorganize their assets (to remove them from their own control) so that they may continue to receive benefits.  This is not only costly in its own right but can have long-term effects on one’s ability to exercise control over their assets.

For example, an SSI beneficiary might be compelled to move inheritance assets into a trust so that they will not disqualify him from continuing to receive benefits — by doing so, however, he may have unwittingly limited his ability to control and perhaps grow the assets.

SSI Beneficiaries Often Utilize Other Need-Based Programs

SSI beneficiaries typically qualify for Medicaid after they qualify for SSI benefits.  Given the limited financial assets that SSI beneficiaries have, they may also be eligible for food stamps.

SSDI Beneficiaries Automatically Qualify for Medicare

SSDI beneficiaries automatically qualify for Medicare in Florida (and elsewhere), but it’s important to note that this Medicare coverage will only be automatically applied after two years of receiving SSDI benefits.  Further, Medicare coverage tends to be less comprehensive than Medicaid coverage — as such, some low-income earners prefer to receive SSI benefits as opposed to SSDI benefits, since they will qualify for more comprehensive healthcare coverage through Medicaid.

Contact an Experienced Tampa SSDI Lawyer Today

Whether you’re concerned about your eligibility for SSI or SSDI benefits or involved in a dispute with the Social Security Administration over a denial of benefits, an undervalued benefits payout, or even an unreasonable delay in claims processing, it’s worthwhile to get in touch with a qualified attorney who can help you understand the ins-and-outs of the disability benefits engagement process.  Here at the Office of Mike Murburg, P.A., we have represented disability claimants in a range of disputes and have helped them successfully secure benefits in challenging situations.

Call (813) 264-5363 today to schedule an appointment with an experienced Tampa SSDI lawyer.  Initial consultation is free, during which we will assess your SSDI disability claim and determine how best to secure benefits on your behalf.