SSDI and SSI are the principal disability benefits programs operated by the U.S. federal government. While both are available to the same groups of people whose physical, mental, or emotional health leaves them unable to work, the programs use different eligibility criteria. As summarized on the Social Security website, the basic differences are that:

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are “insured,” meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pays benefits based on financial need.

Understanding SSDI & SSI

The Cleveland disability attorneys with Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman have helped many families and individuals navigate the SSDI and SSI application and appeals processes. Based on our experiences, we share the following outlines of how the federal disability programs operate.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Applicants for SSDI must be at least 18 years old, not currently receiving other payments through Social Security, and suffering from a medical or psychological condition that the federal government recognizes as disabling. The condition must keep the applicant out of work for at least 12 months or be considered fatal within the near future.

A final requirement is that applicants must have paid into Social Security for at least several months before requesting SSDI benefits. This means that a disabled child can only receive SSDI benefits through an eligible parent or legal guardian. Special eligibility rules also apply to full-time U.S. residents who are not citizens but who have contributed to Social Security through paycheck deductions labeled as F.I.C.A.

Any person who seeks SSDI benefits has an undeniable right to consult and work with a lawyer who specializes in handling Social Security Disability cases. Exercising this right can reduce the possibility of having a first-time application denied. Hiring an attorney who represents SSDI applicants is particularly recommended when appealing a denial becomes necessary because satisfying requests for additional information, meeting tight deadlines, and working through the multiple layers of bureaucracy can become overwhelming without a knowledgeable guide and caring ally.

Proving eligibility for SSDI requires submitting the following, as well as other information and forms:

  • Medical records with diagnoses and prognoses
  • Treatment plans and documentation of compliance with rehabilitation programs
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medication records
  • Employment records and pay stubs going back at least 15 years (when available)
  • Military service records (if applicable)
  • Workers’ compensation award information (if applicable)
  • Tax forms

When approved, SSDI payments arrive twice each month. The average monthly disbursement during 2016 was $1,166, or $583 per deposit.

Supplemental Security Income

SSI payments can be awarded in addition to or separate from SSDI benefits. They are available to permanently disabled U.S. citizens, to people who are older than 65, and to people who can confirm they are legally blind by presenting evidence that their corrected vision is worse than 20/200.

Prisoners and residents of care facilities are not eligible for SSI, nor are couples who have income and financial resources that exceed $3,000 per month. Children and single adults can qualify to receive SSI payments if they have financial resources of less than $2,000 per month.

The Social Security Administration considers the following things to be income and financial resources:

    • Pay for work
    • Other Social Security benefits
    • Workers’ comp payments
    • Unemployment benefits
    • Veterans’ benefits
    • Cash contributions from friends and family members
    • Food and shelter provided at no charge
    • Cash savings
    • Investments like stocks and bonds
  • Insurance policies with cash value
  • Land and housing
  • Vehicles

Selling or giving away possessions in order to qualify for SSI benefits can result in ineligibility for up to three years.

During 2017, the average monthly SSI benefit for an individual was set at $735. For couples, the average SSI payment was $1,103 per month. These amounts get adjusted each year.

Talk To A Disability Lawyer Near You

As with applying for SSDI benefits, anyone who requests SSI payments can work with a legal adviser and representative. If you need assistance from a disability lawyer in Cleveland, call Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman at (800) 678-3318. You can also request a free consultation by completing this online contact form.