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Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security disability benefits are awarded to individuals who have a chronic illness or condition that makes it difficult or impossible for them to work. There are two different types of Social Security disability benefits, and the type that is awarded is based upon individual circumstances. It can be helpful for people who are applying for benefits to understand the different types so they can better anticipate the amount of payment they might receive.

Social Security Disability Benefits: SSDI

Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, is awarded to disabled or blind individuals who have previously paid Social Security taxes. By paying these taxes, these people are “insured” for Social Security disability benefits. When determining whether an individual is “insured,” the Social Security Administration awards a credit for a minimum amount of work performed each year. To be eligible, an applicant must have at least one credit each year after age 21 and the earliest of the following:

  • Year before the applicant reaches the early retirement age of 62
  • Year before the individual became disabled and unable to work
  • Year before the person’s death

A minimum of six credits are needed to earn SSDI, with 40 being the maximum number of credits that are awarded. Those who have earned the maximum number of credits are fully insured and will remain eligible for Social Security disability benefits even after they stop working. Individuals who qualify for SSDI will receive benefits based upon their previous earnings and will also qualify for Medicare coverage.

Social Security Disability Benefits: SSI

In some cases, individuals may become disabled before they are able to accumulate the number of credits needed to draw SSDI. These people may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, instead. In order to qualify, applicants must have limited income and resources and live in the United States or in one of the Northern Mariana Islands. Certain residency or citizenship requirements must be met as well.

Children who are blind or disabled may apply for SSI as these Social Security disability benefits do not require applicants to have a significant work history. The benefit amount is determined by federal guidelines and varies each year based upon the cost of living index. Most states also provide supplemental payments to those receiving SSI. Only Arizona, North Dakota, Mississippi, West Virginia and the Northern Mariana Islands do not provide additional state-sponsored Social Security disability benefits.

Eligibility for Medicaid varies from one state to the next. In most states, individuals who are receiving SSI will automatically be eligible for Medicaid, but a few require their residents to meet other qualification criteria. Those who receive Social Security disability benefits in the form of SSI could also be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or various other types of state and local assistance.

Social Security disability benefits can help those who are blind or disabled meet their monthly living expenses. They can also be helpful to parents of disabled children who are burdened with the additional expenses associated with caring for them. Individuals who are having a difficult time making ends meet because of their own disability or a loved one’s may need to seek advice from an attorney who specializes in helping people obtain Social Security disability benefits.