Woman completing SSDI application

Who Qualifies for SSDI and SSI?

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers two somewhat similar sounding programs that are both geared towards providing financial assistance to disabled Americans. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the Supplement Security Income (SSI) may share these similarities, but they are different in very important ways. Particularly, they differ in who qualifies for them. Those that may be qualified for SSDI may not qualify for SSI or may qualify for both programs. To help eliminate the confusion about SSDI and SSI, let’s take a look at who qualifies for SSDI and who qualifies for SSI.

Who Qualifies for SSDI and SSI?

Both SSDI and SSI require an applicant to have a qualifying disability. This means that the applicant has either a disability listed in the SSA’s Blue Book of disability listings or has a comparable disabling condition. The disability must be the result of a medically determinable condition and impact the applicants’ ability to retain substantially gainful employment.

SSDI eligibility, however, is based in large part on the applicant’s average lifetime earnings that are covered by Social Security. These are counted as work credits. Part of the SSDI application process will, in fact, involve the SSA calculating whether you have enough work credits. This is done by converting your earnings into work credits. You are able to accumulate up to 4 work credits per year. It basically all comes down to how recently you have worked and how long you worked for.

SSI eligibility, on the other hand, does not look to how long or how recently you have worked. SSI instead focuses on the financial need of the individual applicant. Eligibility, therefore, is calculated based on the applicant’s income level and value of assets. The total amount of your assets must fall below a certain amount. Some assets will be exempt from this calculation. Usually, such exempted items include things like your house of residence and your primary use vehicle. Exempted items are not used in calculating your assets. Assets that will be included in this calculation include things like your bank accounts, real estate holdings, and securities such as stocks and bonds. Your monthly income will also be looked at when you are applying for SSI. The countable monthly income you earn cannot exceed the maximum federal base rate in order for you to qualify for the need-based SSA program that is SSI.

Disability Attorney

Not only can the application process for Social Security disability benefits be confusing, but understanding what benefit programs you may be eligible for can be, in and of itself, very confusing. To help you understand what benefits may be available to you as well as to provide assistance to you throughout the application process, you can count on the team at Disability Advocates. We will help you through these often frustrating processes as seamlessly as possible. Contact us today.

About the Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.  Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.