SSI and SSDI Provide Disability Cash Benefits to Those Who Qualify

What do you do if you are unable to work because of a disabling medical condition and you have very few personal income sources to fall back on? You may be eligible for one or both of the federal disability benefits programs available to qualifying individuals who need the security of supplemental income.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides two income benefits programs for people with disabilities: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Your work history and your personal resources are the two most important factors in determining your eligibility for either program if you have a medical condition that meets SSA's definition of a disability.

SSI for People with Disabilities

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is a needs-based program. Eligibility for SSI is determined by what resources and income you have, where and how you live, and your medical condition.

If you are single, your personal resources can be worth no more than $2,000; if married that amount is $3,000. Resources are things you own that are used to support you. However, not everything you own counts as a resource. The home you live in and the car you use for transportation, for example, are not counted.

How much income you have determines the amount of your SSI benefit, which is broken down into earned and unearned sources. In simplest terms, everything except wages from work or self-employment is counted as unearned income. Your living arrangement is also a key factor in determining your countable income. The Social Security Administration's Web site provides details on how countable resources and income are calculated.

The basic maximum monthly SSI payment in 2010 is $674 for an individual and $1,011 for an eligible couple, but this amount could be more depending on your state. Some states add supplements to the basic SSI payment. Also, you may be eligible for other social services to further help you such as Medicaid and food stamps.

SSDI for People with Disabilities

If you have a work history, and have paid into Social Security through FICA taxes, you may also qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. You must have earned five-years-worth of work credits within the last 10 years and meet specific work test requirements to qualify for SSDI. The SSDI cash benefit is based on your earnings record. When you receive SSDI you will become eligible for Medicare 24 months after receiving SSDI benefits.

Can You Receive Both SSI and SSDI?

Provided you meet the income and resource requirements for SSI, and you have paid into Social Security and have accumulated enough recent work history credits to meet SSDI requirements, you may be eligible to receive both SSI and SSDI. You should apply for both federal disability benefits. In fact, SSA will screen you for SSI and SSDI. Keep in mind that if you are currently receiving the maximum SSI benefit of $674, this does not meant that you get the full SSI amount in addition to an SSDI payment. It doesn't work that way.

SSDI is unearned income that is factored into your countable income. Countable income is determined by taking your total income and subtracting income not counted. That figure is again subtracted from the SSI federal benefit rate to determine your SSI cash benefit. The more countable income you have, the less your SSI benefit will be. SSI and SSDI benefits combined may be just dollars over what you could get from SSI alone.

You Can Work While on SSI to Eventually Receive SSDI

If you fall short of the work criteria to receive SSDI, remember that you can work while on SSI and eventually earn work credits that could make you eligible. Keep in mind that the more you earn, the lower your SSI payment will be, and if your countable income goes over the allowable amount in any month, you could lose your SSI benefit. In 2010, the limit of how much you can earn from wages in one month is $1,433 and the limit for couples is $2,107. But, the good news is, if your condition is making it possible for you to try work, you can do it while receiving SSI benefits.

Why Work Toward SSDI Eligibility?

Your SSI benefit is based on need which requires that your income and resources strictly stay within the limitations of eligibility requirements. You will have to undergo a periodic financial review of your income and resources to evaluate your SSI benefit. In some cases, those receiving SSI may actually have too much income and resources to qualify for Medicaid.

Once you accumulate enough work credits to be eligible for SSDI, and your qualifying disability makes it impossible for you to continue working, your approved SSDI cash benefit will not be affected no matter what other income sources may come your way, excluding public disability insurance benefits such as Worker's Compensation. You could win the lottery or acquire a family inheritance and still receive your set SSDI benefit. And, once you receive SSDI benefits, you are definitely eligible for Medicare in two years.

Get Help to Get Disability Benefits

The eligibility rules for both federal disability benefits programs is, without a doubt, complex. Getting professional guidance from a Social Security disability advocacy group or attorney can certainly go far in helping you get through the complexities of both programs so that you can get the supplemental income benefits you need.

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