Are SSI claims in California denied more than SSDI claims?

As a former disability examiner for the social security administration's DDS, or disability determination services, it was my job to review disability claims that were filed under both the title 2 disability program known as SSDI, or Social Security Disability insurance, as well as the title 16 disability program, known as SSI, or supplemental security income.

Social Security treats SSI and Social Security Disability equally in the medical decision process and that process is literally identical regardless of whether a claim is for one program or the other.

Therefore, no more SSI claims in California than Social Security Disability claims are denied or approved. A disability examiner will simply receive a claim from the social security office--where initial claims are taken--and then begin to process it (by getting the claimant's medical records requested and also by evaluating the claimant's work history if they are an adult, and school performance if they are a child).

Why are the two programs handled in exactly the same manner? Simply because there would be no justification for two different systems of evaluation, particularly in cases where a person has filed "concurrently". Concurrent claims are those in which a person has had a disability application taken in both programs simultaneously.

Why are some claims for both SSDI and SSI?

Why does this happen? Usually, this occurs when a person is eligible for SSDI benefits (meaning they have worked enough and have earned enough work credits to gain insured status for SSDI benefits) but would only receive a low monthly benefit check if they were to receive just SSDI by itself.

In fact, most claims are concurrent, meaning that an individual who has gone in to a social security office to file for disability benefits has actually filed for both SSI and Social Security Disability, even if they never realize it (which is usually the case).

Why do some people assume that the decision process for SSDI and SSI disability is different? It may be because, while the process for approving or denying a claim is not different, there are certain non-medical differences between the two programs.

For instance, while SSDI does not even consider what assets a person may have or what non-wage income they may be receiving, SSI is a need-based program; therefore, the income and resources (assets) of an applicant must be considered even if a medical allowance (approval) has been made on a claim.

Translation: This means that some SSI claims are denied on the basis of having too much in assets or non-wage income even though the individual applicant was found to be disabled, according to the social security administration's medical disability criteria. For this reason, it may appear that more SSI claims are denied than Social Security Disability claims, simply because of the non-medical considerations involved with the SSI disability program.

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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