There are two federal government programs that offer financial assistance for people who have disabilities. The first program is Supplemental Security Income and the second program is Social Security Disability Insurance. Each of these programs offers a monthly stipend and access to federally sponsored health care benefits; however, each program has its own set of qualifications that you will need to meet before you can start drawing benefits.
Social Security Disability Insurance
When most people think of disability insurance, it is the Social Security Disability Insurance program that they are thinking of. This program is supported by the Social Security tax deposits that are withdrawn from your paycheck each month. Because this program is funded by the Social Security tax, in order for you to qualify for benefits for you or your family members, you need to meet a “duration of work” test in addition to a “recent work test.”
The “recent work test” tests your ability to do work. It will look at if you are working now, if your disability has eliminated your ability to do the work you used to and it will also look to see if your disability has eliminated your ability to do other types of work. What makes this disability insurance program different from others that you can apply for is that it will not pay you benefits if you have a short term or a partial disability. Because of this, you will need to meet very stringent guidelines and definitions for severe disabilities. This means that your disability has to be expected to last at least a year, and be life threatening or eliminate your ability to find and keep gainful employment.
The “duration of work test” calculates your eligibility to claim Social Security Disability Insurance benefits based on how long you have worked during a specific period of time. The amount of time that you have to have worked in order to claim benefits is going to depend on your age. If you became disabled before you turned 24 then you will need to have worked at least 18 months out of the preceding 36 months in order to claim benefits. If you became disabled between the ages of 24 and 30 years and 11 months, then you will need to have worked half of the time between the first quarter of your 24th year and the quarter that you became disabled. For example, if you are 28 years old when you become disabled then you will need to have worked two of the preceding four years. Finally, if you are 31 years old or older then you will need to have worked five out of the preceding 10 years in order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance.
Supplemental Security Income
The biggest difference between Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income is the funding sources used for each program. As mentioned above, SSDI is funded by the Social Security Tax, though SSI is funded by general tax revenues. This means that you don’t have to use the “duration of work” test to determine your eligibility. This opens the door for children with disabilities, as well as other people with disabilities who have a limited or no work history.
In order to qualify for SSI you will first need to be either 65 years of age or older, disabled or blind. Next you will need to have a limited income, limited resources and meet citizenship and residency requirements. You will also have to apply for all other financial aid programs that you qualify for before you apply for SSI. Finally you will need to fill out forms and paperwork, sign a release so that the Social Security Administration can collect information about your case and you will need complete an interview process.
Another difference between SSDI and SSI is that people with partial disabilities, meaning that they can still work in some capacity, can still qualify for benefits. However, the disability that you have still needs to be severe and long-term, and it needs to impact your ability to earn a living.
Selecting a Disability Program
It is important that you understand which disability benefits program to apply for before you apply for it. Applying for the wrong program can waste a lot of your time and it can limit the amount of benefits you receive. Generally, if your disability developed during your working years you will want to apply for SSDI first, and if your disability developed before you started working then you will want to apply for SSI. However, these rules are not carved in stone. If you need help figuring out which program is right for you, talk to a representative at your local Social Security Administration office.