Topic Categories:

Social Security Disability Definitions

Social Security Disability and SSI Overview

The Requirements for Disability

Social Security Disability and SSI Applications

Tips and Advice for Disability Claims

How long does Disability take?

Common Mistakes after Receiving a Disability Denial

Disability Denials and Filing Appeals

Social Security Mental Disability Benefits

Disability Benefits offered through Social Security

Benefits through SSI disability

Disability Benefits for Children

Disability Qualifications and How to Qualify

Social Security Disability and Working

Winning your Disability Benefits

Social Security Back Pay and the disability award notice

Disability Lawyers and Hiring an Attorney

Social Security Disability SSI List of Conditions

What is considered a Disabling condition by Social Security?

Social Security Disability SSI and Medical Evidence

Filing for Disability Benefits

Eligibility for Disability Benefits

SSDRC authored by

Ask a question, get an answer

The Difference Between Social Security Disability and SSI Really Involves Work Activity

How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits

The medical determination process is the same for both Social Security and SSI. An individual files a disability claim with Social Security. Their disability claim is sent to a state disability processing agency. Once in the disability agency, the claim is assigned to a disability examiner. The disability examiner obtains the medical records from the sources that the disability applicant provided during their disability interview.

As the records come in, the disability examiner reviews them to determine if there is enough evidence to make a medical determination. If there is enough, they make a medical determination.

However, if the examiner determines more information is necessary, then a consultative examination is scheduled to get the needed medical information. When the consultative exam report is received, the examiner will make their decision. Once a decision is made, the local Social Security office completes any development regarding non-medical requirements.

In short, that is the medical determination process of a Social Security disability claim. So what are the differences between Social Security disability and SSI? Social Security disability is based upon insured status, and insured status is achieved through work activity. Each year, Social Security determines what amount of earnings equals one quarter of coverage. An individual has the potential to earn four quarters each year if they have enough income.

The number of quarters that it takes to insure an individual for SSDI (social security disability insurance) depends upon their age and how many quarters they have earned in the last forty quarters prior to the onset of their disability (when they became unable to perform at a substantial work level due to their disabling condition).

Of course, younger individuals may not even have forty quarters of coverage; consequently, there are special insured status rules for younger individuals.

However, there is a minimum amount of quarters for insured status and that is six quarters. No matter how young an individual is, they must have at least six quarters of coverage to be insured. Social Security monthly disability benefit amounts depend on an individualís earnings. Therefore, the monetary benefit amount varies from person to person and there may even be enough money to pay dependents of the disabled individual.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability, on the other hand, is based upon financial need not insured status. In fact, children can receive disability benefits through this program as well as adults with no earnings, very little earnings, or earnings in the past. SSI eligibility is met by meeting income and resource limits very much like other social service programs.

For SSI, if an individual is found medically disabled, their disability claim is always sent back to the local disability office for an end line interview to determine if they still meet the SSI income and resource limits. If they do not (usually meaning that their income or their assets have exceed the allowed limits), they may denied for disability benefits even though they have been found to be disabled according to social security administration standards.

Note: Asset levels only apply to SSI, not social security disability as social security disability is based on insured status, not need.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions

Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The Disability Decision Process and What gets taken into Consideration | Getting Denied for Disability Benefits | Questions about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | Social Security Disability Hearings | Social Security Medical Examinations | Social Security SSI Doctors | Social Security Disability Representation | Social Security Disability SSI Reviews