The Difference Between Social Security Disability (SSD) and SSI ' How are they different Part II

While there are many similarities between Social Security Disability and SSI, there are also important differences in the programs. The similarities include the same medical decisional process and the potential payment of monthly benefits.

Both Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income disability (SSI) applicants must file an application for disability with Social Security. Once the disability application is completed, the disability case file is sent to a state disability agency responsible for making disability medical decisions (DDS, disability determination services).

If an applicant's disability claim is denied, both Social Security Disability and SSI applicants must begin the disability appeal process if they still wish to pursue disability benefits. The appeal process involves multiple levels that include the reconsideration appeal, request for hearing appeal, appeals council review appeal, and, finally, federal court.

For most disability applicants, the appeal process ends with an administrative law judge disability hearing, or at the Appeals Council. If the applicant is denied at their disability hearing, they are allowed to file a new disability claim while waiting for their Appeal Council decision (the reason being that most Appeals Council reviews end in denials). Some pursue their disability claims into federal court, although pursuing disability in federal courts can cost the applicant more out of pocket expense, therefore federal court cases are very few in number.

Now that we have looked at some of the similarities between Social Security Disability and SSI, what are some of the differences? The differences between the programs hinge upon the non-disability eligibility requirements of Social Security Disability and SSI.

For example, Social Security Disability applicants must be insured for disability eligibility. Insured status is based upon work prior to the date the applicant became unable to work because of their disabling condition or conditions. An applicant's earnings record also determines the amount of their monthly disability benefits.

Social Security Disability applicants are allowed unlimited assets and income (if the income is not derived from work activity) and can still retain their eligibility for monthly disability benefits. The Social Security Disability program offers potential monthly benefits for dependents as well (children or spouses)...if there is enough money available on the beneficiary's record.

However, there are no Social Security Disability benefits for children who are disabled, because children have no earnings on which to base insured status.

Some disability claimants may have work activity many years in the past, but very few work years in the ten years prior to becoming disabled. These applicants may be denied for Social Security Disability for lack of insured status. If an applicant is denied for Social Security Disability, or they are eligible for a very low Social Security Disability monthly benefit, they may still be able to receive monthly disability benefits through the SSI disability program.

Supplemental Security Income disability, or SSI, is a disability program based upon need rather than insured status or work activity. SSI offers disability monthly benefits to both adults and children--provided that they meet the income and resource limits. SSI disability benefits are limited to a set monthly amount that is determined by Congress.

Like many need based programs, SSI beneficiaries are required to meet income and resource limits in order to be eligible for monthly disability benefits. SSI income limits vary depending upon family composition. For instance, an applicant with four children may be allowed more household income than an applicant with two children before it affects their eligibility for SSI disability benefits.

SSI recipients must meet resource limits in addition to income limits. All assets are counted toward the resource limit (land, houses, boats, trailers, jewelry, bank accounts, cash, stocks, bonds, vehicles or any other asset that can be easily converted to cash), with the exception of the highest valued vehicle and the house and land the beneficiary lives on. Current resource limits for SSI are 2000.00 for individuals and 3000.00 for couples. While these resource limits have remained in place for several years they could be changed at any time.

Parent's income and resources determine their child's SSI disability eligibility until they are age eighteen. For both adults and children, household income affects eligibility and monthly benefit amounts. SSI beneficiaries must always meet income and resource limits to remain entitled to monthly benefits. To that end, their SSI cases are reviewed periodically to determine if theh resource and income limits are still being met.

While SSI does offer monthly disability benefits for disabled children, it does not offer monthly benefits to dependent children or spouses. SSI monthly benefits are only payable to individuals (adults or children) who have been found to be medically disabled.

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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