The Social Security Administration administers two disability benefits programs for adults: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI, which is also sometimes referred to as DIB or Title 2 benefits, is similar to SSI, or Title 16 benefits, in that both offer regularly-paid cash benefits to people who meet the standards the federal government sets.
For the purposes of SSDI and SSI, “disability” is a legal term rather than a medical diagnosis. Only the Social Security Administration, not a doctor or SSDI/SSI attorney, can determine whether a person meets its standard for being considered disabled.
To decide whether a person is disabled and qualified to receive federal disability benefits, Social Security asks the following five questions in the order they are presented. Note that the same criteria are used regardless of where a person lives and are not specific to applications sent by individuals living in or near Columbus, Ohio.
Residual Functional Capacity
A person’s RFC is determined by conducting a function-by-function assessment of their maximum ability to perform work-related physical and mental activities on a sustained, regular and continuing basis (i.e., 8 hours a day for 5 days a week) despite the limitations and restrictions resulting from medically determinable impairments. In short, the RFC is the determination of what an SSDI or SSI applicant can do at work on a full-time basis.
Different rules apply to some individuals who are over the ages of 50 and 55. Without diving too deeply into the details, it can be easier for older people who have not reached retirement age to qualify to receive federal disability benefits. This is not always the case, however. An SSDI or SSI applicant who is between the ages of 50 and 62 should speak with a Social Security disability attorney to learn more about how their age could affect their likelihood for being determined disabled.
As a general rule, symptoms of a disabling condition must have persisted (or be expected to persist) at least 12 months or be likely to cause death in order to qualify a person for SSDI or SSI benefits. If, for instance, a medical impairment keeps a person out of work for 9 months and then improves enough to permit the person to resume working, the affected individual would not be approved to receive federal disability payments.
That explained, there is no requirement for a person with a medical impairment to wait 12 months before applying for SSDI or SSI benefits. An individual can apply as soon as their earnings dropped below the applicable SGA threshold.
The “medical” requirements outlined above are used to determine whether a person qualifies to receive SSDI or SSI benefits. The Social Security Administration uses different “nonmedical” criteria for determining SSDI and SSI eligibility.
To be eligible for SSDI from a nonmedical perspective, an adult must have worked long enough to be “currently” and “fully” insured under Social Security. Individuals become insured by paying taxes to fund Social Security retirement benefits. The taxes, which the majority of people have automatically withheld from each pay check, earn credits that accumulate over time. A person who becomes unable to work before reaching retirement age can qualify for SSDI benefits if they have accumulated enough credits.
Importantly, the number of credits required to qualify for federal disability payments varies by age. In practical terms, this means that younger adults can accumulate enough credits to qualify for SSDI even if they have not worked very long.
Further, in certain, relatively rare circumstances, an adult may be able to qualify for SSDI benefits because one of their parents or their spouse has accumulated enough Social Security credits. The Social Security Administration will conduct an inquiry to determine whether an applicant qualifies for benefits on their own account or on the account of a relative.
To be eligible for SSI, a person must have limited income and few financial resources. Because of this, it is possible for an individual who has never worked or who has worked only rarely to qualify for SSI benefits but not SSDI benefits. Parents of disabled adult children should consult with an attorney who specializes in Social Security disability cases if they have questions about such a circumstance.
SSDI benefits are paid monthly at a rate that is based on the recipient’s history of earnings from work. During 2020, the most an SSDI recipient could receive was $3,011 per month. More typically, people receive between $800 and $1,800, with the average monthly payment being $1,258.
SSI payments arrive 12 times a year, and the base benefit is the same for everyone. The base SSI benefit for 2020 was $783 per payment.
It is not uncommon for an adult to qualify for both SSDI and SSI benefits. However, payments will be adjusted so that no person receives more than the maximum amount of the most available through SSDI and the most available through SSI.
If you believe you have a medical impairment that prevents you from performing full-time work, you may file an application for SSDI or SSI benefits with your local Social Security office, which you can find by clicking on this link. You may also file your application online or start the process over the phone.
As Columbus-based Social Security disability attorneys, we are available to answer questions. We do, however, encourage Ohio residents to prepare and submit their initial SSDI and SSI applications on their own. We are best prepared to assist with SSDI denials and appeals of rejections for SSI benefits.
To schedule a free consultation with an SSDI/SSI attorney in Columbus, Ohio, call Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman at (614) 221-3318. We also take appointments online.