SSDI stands for Social Security Disability Insurance. If a person becomes disabled due to a severe medical impairment or combination of impairments, he or she may apply for disability insurance benefits based on his or her work record.
Everyone who works for a sufficiently long period of time and contributes social security taxes may become eligible for disability insurance benefits (DIB) if they become unable to work due to a medically determinable severe impairment or impairments. It is useful to think of the contribution of social security taxes as a kind of insurance premium. The amount of cash benefits available is a function of the person’s earnings history.
But what if a person has not worked long enough to qualify for DIB? Or, what if a person has not worked for such a long period of time that their disability insured period has expired? Again, it is useful to think of tax contributions to social security as an insurance premium, although this is not a precise comparison. If a person stops paying the insurance premium, they lose insured status. This can happen if a person does not contribute social security taxes for a long period of time as well.
In cases where a person cannot qualify for disability insurance benefits, either because they have not worked long enough or have not worked in a long time, they may still be eligible for SSI. SSI is like a welfare program for disabled people. In other words, unlike disability insurance benefits, it is not based on the person’s earnings history or contribution to social security taxes. The same exacting standard of medical proof is required for SSI cases as for SSDI cases. Both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration.
The maximum amount of SSI benefits an eligible person can receive in 2015 is $733 per month, or $1,100 per month for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse. Getting back to the question posed by the title of this post: may a person receive both SSI and SSDI payments? The answer is that it depends upon the circumstances.
Some people may be eligible for SSDI payments, but their earnings history is such that their cash benefits would be less than $733 per month. Such a person may apply for and receive both SSI and SSDI payments, but the combined total of both benefits cannot exceed the maximum federal benefit payment of $733 per month.
SSDI benefits are governed by Title II of the Social Security Act. SSI benefits are governed by XVI of the Social Security Act. A person may apply for benefits under both titles concurrently.
It may also be useful to apply for SSI as well as SSDI because there is a five month waiting period between the date a person is found disabled and the date when cash benefits can begin. So, if a person becomes disabled on June 1st of a particular year, for example, and applies for SSDI benefits on July 1st of the same year and is approved, their cash benefits cannot begin until November 1st of that year. However, SSI benefits can begin as of the date of filing for benefits, without a five-month waiting period.
Both benefits can be paid retroactively to the date of disability, subject to the limitation that SSDI cash benefits cannot be paid further back than one year prior to the date a person applies. SSI cash benefits cannot be paid further back than the date of application, regardless of the person’s onset date of disability.
If a person’s SSDI cash benefits are greater than $733 per month, they cannot received both SSDI and SSI benefits.
One advantage of SSDI versus SSI is that when a disabled person has been receiving SSDI cash benefits for 24 consecutive months, they become eligible for Medicare. A person who receives only SSI is eligible for Medicaid, but not Medicare. More doctors accept Medicare payments than those who accept Medicaid payments. For disabled individuals, it is clearly important to obtain as much medical help as possible. Oftentimes, regular treatment over time can result in medical improvement such that the person is able to return to the workforce.
One mistake I have seen is when a disabled person applies for only one benefit or the other, when they may be eligible for both. Thus, it is often helpful to consult with an experienced attorney in deciding which benefits to apply for.
This material should not be construed as legal advice for any particular fact situation, but is intended for general informational purposes only. For advice specific to any individual situation, an experienced attorney should be contacted.