How is SSI different from Social Security Disability?

Social Security Disability is an insurance program that is based upon insured status. An individual pays their insurance 'premiums' through payroll deductions. Earnings reported to the Internal Revenue Service are the basis of an individual's Social Security earnings record.

Each year, an individual can add four quarters of coverage to their insured status depending on their earnings for the year.

In contrast, SSI disability is different from SSD in that it does not require an insured status or that a person work. It is based upon need rather than insured status. While it does not require work or insured status, SSI does have income and resource limits an individual must meet to be eligible for the program.

Generally, Social Security Disability pays a higher monthly disability benefit than SSI, because it is based upon an individual's earnings in the years prior to their becoming disabled. SSI disability has a set maximum monthly disability benefit determined by Social Security each year. SSI disability does not pay benefits for dependents. Social Security Disability beneficiaries sometimes have enough money on their record for their dependents to receive benefits as well.

Previously, I mentioned that SSI has income and resource (assets) limits that determine eligibility. SSI disability beneficiaries must have no more than $2000.00 dollars in resources if they are an individual or $3000.00 if they part of a couple. While Social Security Disability beneficiaries have no resource limits. Social Security Disability does not care about an individual's assets because their disability benefits are based upon the their earnings rather than need.

SSI disability beneficiaries are also held to income limits that involve all kinds of income. If their income exceeds their monthly income limit, they will not be entitled to receive a SSI benefit for that month.

SSI beneficiaries often end up with overpayments because they are not timely in reporting work earnings or other income. Social Security Disability beneficiaries have no income limits per say; however they are affected by work activity. Social Security beneficiaries should be careful about their work earnings. Their disability benefits could be suspended or even terminated due to work activity.

Lastly, health insurance coverage is different for the two disability programs. Social Security Disability beneficiaries must wait two years from the month they are entitled to receive their monthly disability check to receive Medicare coverage. By contrast, SSI disability beneficiaries receive Medicaid benefits immediately.

Some Social Security Disability beneficiaries with low disability monthly benefit amounts are able to receive Medicaid and Medicare simultaneously once they are entitled to receive it. However, the vast majority of Social Security Disability beneficiaries have a two year medicare waiting period before they receive the benefits of Medicare insurance.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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