At some point in your life, you or someone you love may become disabled. A disability often creates a financial hardship along with the emotional and physical toll the disability takes on the victim. Fortunately, there are two federal assistance programs that may be able to help ease the financial burden that frequently accompanies a disability. Those programs are Social Security Disability Income, or SSDI, and the Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, program. Though both provide financial assistance to eligible recipients, there are some significant differences between the two programs that you will need to know.
For both the SSDI and the SSI program you must meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of “disabled”. According to the SSA, you are disabled if:
- You cannot do work that you did before;
- We decide that you 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.
The biggest difference between the two programs is that the SSDI program provides benefits only if you (or someone from whom you can claim benefits) worked long enough to draw from the program. The SSI program, on the other hand, does not depend on your previous work history.
The SSDI program provides a monthly monetary benefit to you, your spouse, and your children if you qualify. Your work history determines whether you meet the “earnings requirement” portion of the test for SSDI eligibility. You can check through the SSA website to see if you have earned enough to qualify for SSDI benefits should the need arise. If you do qualify, your monthly benefit amount will also be affected by the amount of money you have earned over your lifetime. There is also a maximum family amount that can be paid to everyone who qualifies off of your work record each month.
The SSI program, on the other hand, is a means test program, meaning that it is aimed at helping low income individuals without regard to past work history. Along with meeting the definition of disabled, you will need to fall below a certain income level to qualify. The SSA website offers a Benefits Eligibility Screening Tool that may help you determine if you would qualify for benefits. For 2013, the maximum monthly SSI benefit amount for an individual is $710 and for a couple it is $1,066. Unlike the SSDI program, your family members are not entitled to benefits solely based on your eligibility.
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