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Should I Apply for SSDI or SSI?

You’ve been injured or have a disability that will prevent you from working. You know you might qualify for social security benefits but don’t know which to apply for: Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Which one do you apply for?

Here is some information on both types of Social Security benefits.

To Qualify for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)

There are many factors that will go into whether or not you will qualify for SSDI benefits. One of these factors is that you need to have enough of what is called work credits. Work credits are a system used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to calculate whether you have enough work history to be eligible to receive benefits. Work history is important, because to qualify it is a requirement that you have paid into the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) throughout your employment history. Most people who are employed in the United States pay into this system, as do their employers. 

If you are looking to receive disability benefits, another requirement is that you must be completely unable to perform the requirements of your profession. The SSA must also decide that you can’t adapt to other work as the result of your disability, which is often a point of trouble for people applying for Social Security Disability Insurance.

There’s some math involved in calculating eligibility for SSDI. The Social Security Administration requires that you have at least 40 work credits to be qualified as “insured” by the program. You gain work credits by paying into the system, which we covered above with the FICA. Twenty of those credits must have been earned in the last 5 years, however, if you’re younger you may not have to have as many credits to qualify. If you’re under 31 years old, the requirements are a bit different. If you’re above that age, you must have worked at least five of the last ten years in full-time work.

To Qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility requirements are different and are typically simpler to navigate. There is no past employment requirement for SSI and it is primarily decided by financial need. Not only are SSI benefits awarded to disabled workers, but also awarded to individuals and disabled children born with a disability. Before moving forward with an application for SSI, it is a good idea consult with a local disability attorney to discuss your options, as well as the specific income requirements for your state.

SSDI and SSI Info Table

Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Funded by FICA taxes
Funded by general taxes
Must have eligible medical condition
Must have eligible medical condition
Must be unable to work for 12 months or more
Must be unable to work for 12 months or more
Cannot adjust to other work
Cannot adjust to other work
Worked enough to earn working credits
Have not worked enough to earn working credits
Benefit amount is determined by past earnings
Benefit amount is determined by a federal maximum
Family members can also receive your SSDI benefits
Must have limited resources -$2000 per person or$3000 per couple
Family members have to apply for SSI benefits individually is here to help you navigate your options and help you better understand Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. Up to 70% of initial applications are denied each year, so it is essential to properly research application requirements. Working with an experienced social security disability attorney can help you in the application process. Complete our free evaluation to be connected with a local disability attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation and discuss your next steps forward. 

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