The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Programs provide financial support to individuals who cannot work due to severe medical impairments. SSI is a need-based program for people with disabilities and little or no income or assets. If you’re considering whether to file for SSI or SSDI concurrently (at the same time), you should first ensure you meet Social Security’s definition of disability.
Social Security considers you disabled if:
- You cannot do work that you did before;
- Uou cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
How SSDI and SSI Define Qualifying Disabilities
The basic definition of a qualifying disability is very simple: Social Security defines a qualifying disability as “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”
The definition of disability for children under the age of 18 is slightly different but is defined as “a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments that causes marked and severe functional limitations, and that can be expected to cause death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”
Asset Limits for SSI
To determine if you qualify for SSI, the Social Security Administration will ensure you meet certain criteria. They will review your income, your financial assets and any 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.
In general, anyone who is:
- aged (age 65 or older);
- blind; or
- has limited income and resources
may be eligible for the program.
(There are several other qualifying guidelines you can learn about in detail here.)
When Social Security evaluates a SSI claim for “limited income” and “limited resources” they look at the money you earn from work. They will also look at the money you receive from other sources. Some sources may be: 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). In 2020, the FBR is $783 per month for an individual and $1,175 per month for a couple. Not all income is countable. It’s important to work with a qualified disability lawyer to hash out the details.
The Social Security Administration reviews resources such as cash, bank accounts, stocks, U.S. saving bonds, land, vehicles, personal property and life insurance.
Social Security evaluates all of the above on a household basis. This means they will look at your spouse’s income and resources too.
2020 SSI resource limits are $3,000 for a couple and $2,000 for an individual or a child. But, Social Security excludes your primary residence and one vehicle used for transportation.
When You Should Apply for Both Programs
You should consider applying for both programs if your SSDI benefits are so low that they do not prevent you from meeting the financial eligibility requirements for SSI. With a successful application, the additional SSI benefits can bring your monthly checks up to the SSI maximum.
Government data for 2016 showed that 10% of claimants who received disability benefits received concurrent benefits. 62% received only SSDI. It’s also important to remember that the SSDI application process can take a very long time, sometimes years. You may not qualify for SSI initially. However, it is possible to qualify while waiting to be approved for SSDI if your assets and income fall below SSI limits. Then you can apply for SSI.
In conclusion, it can be challenging to qualify for and understand both SSI and SSDI. For that reason, we recommend that potential claimants work with a qualified disability lawyer.