There are 2 programs to assist people unable to work due to a medical condition Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
When people hear the words "Social Security", they generally think of three things: retirement benefits, survivor benefits and disability benefits. Under the disability category, there are two distinct programs to assist people who are unable to work due to a medical condition: Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
The basic distinction between SSDI and SSI eligibility is based on the applicant's work history, and therefore whether the person has been a sufficient contributor to the Social Security system. Eligibility for SSDI benefits is based upon two earnings requirements: the "recent work" test and the "duration of work" test. Essentially, you must have worked for half of a defined period that precedes the beginning of the disability, and you must also have worked for a certain number of total years during your adult life.
The requirements increase as applicants get older:
A 25-year-old applicant must have been employed for half of the time since turning 21 until the onset of the disability, and must also meet a durational requirement of at least 1.5 years of work
A 46-year-old applicant must have worked during five of the ten years that precede the onset of the disability, and must have worked at least 6 total years
A 60-year-old applicant must have worked during five of the ten years that precede the onset of the disability, and must have worked at least 9.5 total years
Obviously, this is just the threshold test for SSDI eligibility, and a comprehensive assessment of the applicant's disability is the next step. But if a person fails to meet the earnings requirement, he or she can still pursue an SSI claim, which involves the same rigid disability assessment process, but requires no work history. However, the applicant's income and assets are part of a thorough financial need review to determine eligibility for SSI.
A Social Security Disability Attorney Can Explain Your Options
Two basic differences between SSDI and SSI benefits for those who qualify: the maximum benefit rate for SSDI is more than three times the SSI maximum; and SSDI recipients receive Medicare coverage rather than Medicaid. In some cases, an individual may qualify under both programs.
SSDI eligibility is not strictly limited by the applicant's Social Security tax record: a disabled widow or widower's application may be based upon the work history of a deceased spouse. Similar exceptions exist for spouses and children of living SSDI recipients.
An experienced SSDI and SSI lawyer can review an applicant's basic financial information during an initial consultation and provide personalized advice about how to proceed with an application for Social Security disability or SSI benefits. Because the application process is guided by a complex and vast tangle of regulations, the value of targeted legal advice from a dedicated advocate is hard to overestimate.
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