When we speak with a prospective claimant seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), we spend time asking questions about their medical conditions and financial resources.
Of course, it is very important for us to understand the medical evidence that supports your disability claim. But, we also spend time talking to claimants about past earnings and their current financial situation to determine if they are eligible for Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.
Is it Possible to Qualify for Both Programs?
The short answer is that yes, it is possible to qualify for both SSDI and SSI programs but it’s rare. To start, let’s quickly review the differences between both programs. If you want a more detailed overview, you can read our blog post about the different social security programs here.
Qualifying for SSDI Versus SSI
To qualify for either program, Social Security has to determine that you are in fact disabled. The Social Security Program’s definition of disability is “any condition that is severe enough to prevent you from working for 12 months or more.”
In addition to evaluating your medical impairments, Social Security also uses non-medical criteria to determine which programs you may be eligible for. This is where SSDI differs from SSI.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are for disabled workers and certain dependents. A person applying for SSDI benefits will have worked enough to obtain the number of work credits required to be eligible for benefits.
You must also have earned a certain amount of money each year and have had taxes withheld from your pay to receive credits. If you have worked steadily for at least five of the last ten years, you will most likely meet the non-medical requirements for SSDI benefits.
On the other hand, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is need-based. It is a public assistance program for the elderly, disabled and blind. SSI benefits are not related to an individual’s earnings or work record and they are not funded by past work credits.
To determine if you qualify for SSI, the Social Security Administration will ensure you meet certain criteria in terms of your income, your financial assets and any financial aid you or your spouse may receive.
Who is Eligible for SSI?
To meet the income and resource requirements for SSI, Social Security has to determine you fall under their qualifying guidelines.
Anyone who is:
- aged (age 65 or older);
- blind; or
- has limited income;
- has limited resources;
- is a U.S. citizen or national, or in one of certain categories of aliens;
- is a resident of one of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands;
- is not absent from the country for a full calendar month or for 30 consecutive days or more;
- is not confined to an institution (such as a hospital or prison) at the government’s expense;
- applies for any other cash benefits or payments for which he or she may be eligible, (for example, pensions, Social Security benefits);
- gives SSA permission to contact any financial institution and request any financial records about you;
- files an application; and
- meets certain other requirements.
Is eligible for the program.
When Social Security evaluates a SSI claim for “limited income” and “limited resources” they will look at the money you earn from work and the money you receive from other sources such as: Social Security benefits, unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, the Department of Veteran Affairs, friends and family, free food or shelter.
In general, the income limit for SSI is the federal benefit rate (FBR), which is $783 per month for an individual and $1,175 per month for a couple in 2020. Not all income is countable, so it’s important to work with a qualified disability lawyer to hash out the details.
The Social Security Administration will also perform a review of resources such as cash, bank accounts, stocks, U.S. saving bonds, land, vehicles, personal property, life insurance and anything else you own that could be converted to cash and used for food or shelter.
Social Security evaluates all of the above on a household basis, so if you are married, your spouse’s income and resources will be evaluated, too.
2020 SSI resource limits are $3,000 for a couple and $2,000 for an individual or a child. One vehicle used for transportation is excluded from that amount along with your primary residence.
So, can I receive SSDI and SSI?
There is no rule that claimants cannot qualify for both programs, but it is unusual for someone receiving SSDI to also receive SSI. Why?
Typically, someone receiving SSDI has worked for years and has resources or assets above and beyond the limits stipulated but SSI. For those who don’t, we encourage and help them to apply for both programs.
In addition, individuals who are seeking SSI but who are already receiving SSDI benefits very often find that their monthly benefit from SSDI is greater than the federal benefit rate of $783. In that case, Social Security would apply the amount that claimant was receiving against the income and resource limits for the SSI program. In most cases, claimants would then not qualify for SSI. If your SSDI payment is more than $783 per month, it is unlikely that you will also qualify for SSI.
In the rare event that an individual is receiving SSDI benefits AND those benefits do not exceed the income criteria for the SSI program, that claimant may be eligible for SSI.
Given the challenges of qualifying for and understanding both SSI and SSDI criteria, we recommend that potential claimants work with a qualified disability lawyer.