Qualifying For SSI and SSDI Disability

If you are disabled and can’t work, there are numerous programs and assistance to help you.  Two of those programs at the federal level are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Although there are several differences between the SSI and SSDI disability programs, there is one similarity.  The definition of disability is the same and medical disability is assessed the same way under both programs.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the disability program for those individuals that have not worked or have not worked enough recently to be insured for benefits. It pays monthly cash benefits to people who are age 65 or older, those who are blind, or those who have a disability and have $2,000 or less in assets and have no or limited income. Both adults and children can apply for SSI.

To qualify for SSI benefits, you have to meet a variety of eligibility requirements, including an income and asset test. Social Security does not count all of your income when they decide if you can get SSI. For example, SSA does not count:

  • The first $20 of most income received in a month
  • The first $65 a month you earn from working and half the amount over $65
  • Food stamps
  • Shelter
  • Most home energy assistance

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI pays monthly cash benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability. After a 24-month waiting period, SSDI eligibility allows you to receive Medicare benefits even if you are under age 65.

To qualify for benefits, you must first have worked in jobs covered by Social Security and paid FICA taxes. You must also have a medical condition that meets the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of disability. In addition to meeting the definition of disability established by SSA, you must have worked long enough — and recently enough — under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits. Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year.

The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.