The term “Social Security” can refer to several different types of benefits paid by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The agency is perhaps best known for its retirement and disability benefits programs. The Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program includes the SSA’s retirement program and the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. The SSA maintains another benefits program that may be available to disabled individuals, known as Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Since the abbreviations “SSDI” and “SSI” are nearly identical, some confusion quite understandably exists about the two programs and how they are different from each other. Disabled individuals in Massachusetts and elsewhere around the country should be familiar with how each program might benefit them.
Eligibility for SSDI benefits depends on a claimant’s work history. Claimants must show that they are “insured” by the program through their payroll tax contributions. The SSA typically measures work history in yearly quarters. A claimant must have worked a certain minimum number of quarters in their lifetime—at least six (and this is the bare minimum, with the minimum number depending on a variety of factors for each individual, including but not limited to one’s age) —to be “fully insured.” They must also be “currently insured,” meaning that they worked a certain number of quarters immediately prior to the month they became disabled. The number of quarters largely depends on the claimant’s age at the time of his or her disability.
The SSI program, meanwhile, has no work (and earned quarters of coverage) requirements. SSI benefits therefore might be available to people who do not have enough work history to qualify for SSDI or who may never have worked previously.
Income and Assets
SSI is only available to claimants whose income is below the federal benefit rate (FBR), an amount determined each year by the SSA based on cost-of-living adjustments (COLA). As of January 1, 2015, the FBR for an individual is $733 per month. And so, one may collect SSI if their SSDI benefit amount is below the FBR.
Not all income is counted towards the SSI income limit. Income counted by the SSA includes:
– Earned income, such as from a job;
– Unearned income, such as Social Security benefits or child support payments;
– In-kind income, such as free rent or food from a source other than the government; and
– Deemed income, which is a portion of income earned by a spouse or other household member.
The SSA allows standard deductions from earned and unearned income for SSI purposes, and it does not count income that goes towards certain expenses, such as medical care.
On the contrary, the SSDI program is not a welfare program and has no restrictions on a claimant’s income or assets.
Standard of Proof
Both the SSI and the SSDI programs require proof of an injury or illness that prevents the claimant from working, as well as proof that the period of disability is likely to persist for at least 12 months or result in death. This may require extensive documentation from doctors regarding a claimant’s diagnosis and treatment.
An SSI claim and entitlement to such funds requires the additional demonstration of financial need based on one’s income.
The SSDI program may pay additional benefits to a beneficiary’s dependents, if any money is still available on the beneficiary’s record.
SSI benefits are only payable to the individual claimant.
Age of Claimant
SSDI benefits are available to people who are at least 18 years old, but younger than 65 (or what is deemed to be their full retirement age).
SSI benefits may be available to older claimants and children, again based on need.
SSDI beneficiaries must wait at least five full months following being out of work as a result of a disabling condition to begin receiving benefits. Such benefits are potentially payable as far as 1 year prior to one’s filing date (assuming they have met the five full month waiting period requirement) and one has remained disabled from gainful employment according to Social Security’s rules during that prior period of time.
The SSI program has no mandatory waiting period, but such benefits are not payable until the month after one’s application.
Both programs, however, tend to have backlogs of cases that delay decisions on claims.
Source of Funds
SSDI benefit payments come from a special account in the U.S. Treasury, the SSDI Trust Fund. Unfortunately, the SSA has been trying to keep up with growing demands on this and other funds for decades. The fund is currently not taking in as much income from payroll taxes as it is obligated to pay out as benefits, and the SSA estimates that the trust fund will be depleted in late 2016. Without some means of increasing the balance in the account, the SSA will have to cut benefit payments at that time to match the amount of revenue.
SSI benefits come from the general fund of the U.S. Treasury.
You can get started on your SSDI claim right away by scheduling a free consultation with the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith. Call us at 1-800-773-8622 today.
More Blog Posts:
How to Apply for SSDI Benefits in Maine and Beyond, Social Security Disability Lawyer Blog, July 1, 2015
What is SSDI? An Overview for Residents of Massachusetts and Other States, Social Security Disability Lawyer Blog, June 24, 2015
Defining a Medical Disability for Purposes of Obtaining SSDI Benefits in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Social Security Disability Lawyer Blog, June 10, 2015