Overview of Disability

Disability Back Pay

Disability Requirements

Disability Applications

Disability Advice Tips

How long do cases take?

How to win Disability

SSD Mistakes to avoid

Disability for Mental

What if you get denied?

How to file Appeals

Disability through SSA

SSI Disability Benefits

Disability for Children

How do I qualify for it?

Working and Disability

Disability Award Notice

Disability Lawyer Q&A

Disability Conditions List

What is a disability?

Your Medical Evidence

Filing for your Disability

Disability Eligibility

SSD SSI Definitions

Recent Questions

SSDRC Disability Blog

When I Apply for Disability - Should I apply for social Security disability or SSI?

The disability evaluation process under social security tends to be fairly long. Even at the initial claim level (the application for disability), it can take as much as six months to receive a decision. And if a claim is denied, appeals may easily consume just as much time, if not more.

Currently, the first appeal, the request for reconsideration, will take three months on average and a request for hearing may take more than a year. Therefore, individuals who are unable to work, or find their ability to maintain a job seriously compromised by physical or mental health issues may wish to apply for disability as soon as possible.

Which Social Security disability program should you file for? Frankly, you can apply for Social Security disability or SSI disability; however have no choice as to the disability program you are eligible for. Social Security evaluates you for both Supplemental Security Income disability (SSI) and Social Security disability during your disability application interview.

Title 2 benefits: Social Security Disability

Social Security disability is based on an insured status earned through your work activity prior to becoming disabled. Earnings equal quarters of coverage that are in turn used to establish eligibility for Social Security disability. Each individual can earn a maximum of four quarters of coverage each year.

Social Security disability is essentially an insurance program whose premiums are paid through your payroll deductions. After you stop working and paying these premiums, you are generally insured for about five years.

If you have not earned enough to qualify for Social Security disability or you are no longer insured for Social Security disability, you may be able to apply and receive disability benefits through the SSI disability program. While the SSI disability program is not based on work activity or insured status, it SSI has its own eligibility requirements.

Title 16 benefits: SSI Disability

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability is a need based disability program that relies on income and resource (asset) limits to determine who is potentially eligible to receive disability benefits. Social Security determines income and resource limits each year.

The SSI income limit usually changes periodically, however the SSI resource limit has remained the same for many years. This does not mean the resource limit could not change at some point in the future. Resources counted to toward the SSI resource limit include, but are not limited to, the following: vehicles, land, homes, bank accounts, 401K or other retirement accounts, burial plots, jewelry, cash, settlements, inheritance, etc.

Currently, an individual can have $2000.00 in resources excluding their most valuable vehicle and the home (and the land it sits on) they live in. All other vehicles, homes, and land count toward the resource limit.

Income can include unemployment benefits, long term or short term disability benefits, pensions, wages, workman’s compensation benefits, etc.

SSI monthly income limits are also variable due to family composition. For example, families with more children are allowed a higher amount of income prior to becoming ineligible for SSI benefits than individuals who live on their own.

You can choose not to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) even if you qualify for the program. SSI is a need based disability program, therefore Social Security is not going to force anyone to file. However, if you do want SSI disability benefits, you have to apply for any Social Security benefits you might be eligible to receive in order to offset the amount of money paid by the SSI program.

In a nutshell, you can apply for both Social Security disability and SSI disability, but an application does not mean you will meet the eligibility requirements SSI or SSD. You cannot really choose which disability program you file for other than refusing SSI disability. Your eligibility to both or either program will be determined by Social Security and SSI disability guidelines.

If you have enough earnings (from your work history) to be entitled to disability insured status, an application for social security disability may be taken. If you have not paid enough into the system to qualify for SSD, you may still be entitled to file for SSI disability. However, as SSI is a need-based program, this will depend on your income and resource levels.

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

Related pages:

Should you Look at the Disability File that Social Security has on You?
How do I apply for a Social Security disability widow’s claim?
Who handles my case if I apply for Social Security disability?
Social Security Disability Application Online
Can I apply for disability online?
Can I Collect Unemployment While I File For Disability Benefits (SSD or SSI)?
What medical conditions can you apply for disability for?
To Apply For SSI or SSD Disability Benefits, Where do I Start?
When You Apply For Disability, write Down Everything That Is Wrong With You
When I Apply For Disability, Should I List My Old Meds From Years Ago?
When I Apply for Disability - Should I apply for social Security disability or SSI?
What happens if you are working when you file for disability or work after you apply?
If Social Security Turns Down My Case Can I apply For Disability A Second Time?
Determining Social Security Disability and SSI eligibility

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Qualifying for SSI, SSD, SSDI disability benefits