Very few of us can get by for very long without regular income. While we may try to save for the proverbial “rainy day,” a lengthy period of incapacity can wipe out a rainy day fund in no time. Furthermore, your odds of experiencing that period of incapacity are likely higher than you realize. While the odds of becoming incapacitated do increase with age, one in five Americans will experience a period of incapacity during their working years (prior to age 65). Fortunately, there are assistance programs that may help you if you become disabled and can no longer work. The Vero Beach elder law attorneys explain the basics of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs.
SSI and SSDI Basics
Because they offer similar benefits, people frequently use the names of the programs interchangeably despite the fact that they are two very different programs. Both SSI and SSDI are funded by the U.S. federal government through the Social Security Administration. In addition, both programs provide monthly monetary assistance to individuals who meet the federal government’s definition of “disabled.” As such, your first hurdle is to determine if you meet the definition of “disabled.” To be considered disabled for purposes of SSI or SSDI eligibility you must be able to prove that:
- You cannot do work that you did before;
- The SSA decides 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
Am I Eligible for SSDI?
Eligibility for SSDI is linked to your work history. Specifically, you must have a sufficient work history prior to your disability to qualify. Working earns you “work credits” that you need to qualify for SSDI. The number of “work credits” you need will depend on your age at the time of application; however, most applicants need to have earned 20 credits during the preceding 10 years. A work credit is earned by earning a designated amount ($1,320 for the year 2018) up to a maximum of four credits a year if you earned $5,280 or more. If you qualify for SSDI, your dependents may also qualify for monthly benefits based on your work record. Because SSDI benefits are based on your work history, the monthly benefit you receive will almost always be higher than the current SSI benefit. The average monthly SSDI is $1,197 with a maximum benefit of $2,788 as of2018.
Am I Eligible for SSI
Qualifying for SSI, on the other hand, is not based on your work history. Instead, eligibility for SSI is based solely on your income and resources. To qualify, you must have income and resources that are below the program limits. The resources limit for an individual is $2,000 and for a married couple $3,000. Unlike the SSDI program, SSI benefits are not available to family members; however, eligibility for SSI can automatically make you eligible for other assistance programs, such as Medicaid, and SNAP (food stamps). In 2018, the maximum SSI benefit, referred to as the “Federal Benefit Rate (FBR)”, is $750 per month for individuals and $1,125 for couples. The FBR increases annually if there is a Social Security cost-of-living adjustment. In addition, some states provide a state supplement which is added to the federal SSI benefit payment. The amount of the state supplement varies between states, from $10 to $200.
How to Apply for SSI or SSDI
You can apply for both SSDI and SSI online through the Social Security Administration’s website. Unfortunately, about two out of every three initial applications for SSDI are denied which is why it is usually in your best interest to consult with an experienced elder law attorney if you feel you might be entitled to SSI or SSDI benefits before completing the application.
Contact Vero Beach Elder Law Attorneys
For additional information please download our FREE solid estate plan checklist. If you have additional questions or concerns about eligibility for SSI or SSDI, please contact the experienced Vero Beach elder law attorneys at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule an appointment.