Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits provide millions of Americans who are disabled, aged, or blind with the assistance they need. The two programs are distinct and have different qualifying criteria. SSI was created by the Social Security Act to help the elderly, blind, or disabled who are most in need. These benefits can provide the necessary monthly monies to pay for food, housing, and shelter. SSD benefits, on the other hand, are designed to benefit those who have worked and paid into the Social Security system, but who have become disabled and are in need of assistance. SSD is only available for those with sufficient work credits, unlike SSI which is open to anyone.
An Overview of SSI
SSI benefits are intended to assist people who are deemed the least capable of self-sufficiently caring for their basic life needs or retaining adequate employment. SSI recipients are thus limited to those 1) over the age of 65; or 2) considered to be legally blind; or 3) disabled children or adults. In addition to these requirements, the Social Security Administration sets strict income and asset limits.
Income and Resource Determination for SSI
The federal government sets income and resource limits yearly. As of 2014, eligible individuals must make under $721 per month and couples must jointly make less than $1,082 a month. However, not all income will count towards these figures. SSI will exclude the first $65 in earnings and one half of all earnings over $65 per month. This means that effectively, in 2014, an individual can earn up to $1,500 a month and still qualify for SSI, though their monthly payments will be reduced. Additional exclusions will apply to disable students and children.
SSI will also look at your resources. Resources can include bank accounts, cash, land, property, life insurance, vehicles, and personal property. Sometimes, your parent’s or spouse’s income will be included in the evaluation. The limit for countable resources is currently set to $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 per couple. However, exclusions do apply. Your home will not be counted towards resources, and neither will one vehicle, household goods, and grants or scholarships, to name a few.
Disability Determination for SSI
Those under the age of 65 must meet the definition of disability in order to qualify. An adult is considered disabled if he or she is unable to perform substantial gainful work activity for at least 12 continuous months due to a physical or mental impairment. For children under the age of 18, a disability is defined as a physical or mental condition that severely limits activities and the condition is expected to continue for at least 12 months.
Obtaining Assistance Throughout the SSI Application Process
Successfully applying for SSI benefits can be time consuming, complex, and frustrating. An experienced Gainesville SSI benefits attorney can assist you in preparing your application and filing any necessary appeals so that you begin receiving benefits in no time.
The Five Step Process for Applying for SSD Benefits
Applying for SSD benefits varies greatly from SSI. The basic five step process is outlined below:
What is your prior work history?
In order to apply for SSD benefits, you must meet the threshold requirement of having worked a certain number of years in order to be considered part of the system. If you do not have sufficient work credits, your claim will be denied.
Are you currently engaged in substantial gainful activity?
If you are currently working and earning more than $1,070 per month, as of 2014, you will likely be considered engaged in substantial gainful activity. If you are engaged in substantial gainful activity, even if you are disabled and meet other criteria, you will not qualify for SSD benefits.
Is your medical condition expected to last over 12 months?
To qualify for SSD benefits, you must suffer from a physical or mental impairment that is expected to continue for at least 12 continuous months or result in death.
Is the condition serious?
Once processed by the Social Security Administration, your file will be sent to the Disability Determination Service, who will determine your level of impairment. If your impairment is not severe enough to affect your ability to work, you will not be entitled to benefits. The Disability Determination Service will look to your disability’s impact on your ability to function.
The Disability Determination Service will compare your disability to an official list known as the Listing of Impairments. This will provide a basic idea as to whether your disability is severe enough to meet SSD requirements. The lengthy list includes neurological disorders, mental health problems, auto-immune diseases, kidney failure, liver disease, seizures, and multiple sclerosis, to name a few.
If your impairment is not listed, you can still qualify but additional inquiry will be involved.
Can you perform any other job?
If you cannot return to your prior work due to impairment, the SSA will consider whether there are other jobs you could perform with your current abilities and skill sets. Your claim could be denied if the SSA feels you can perform other work, though they will take into consideration your age and skill level.
SSD and SSI Myths
There are several myths swirling about concerning SSI and SSD benefits that may prevent those who believe them in applying for benefits. It is often believed that you cannot work if you are applying for benefits. This is not necessarily true. You can seek either SSI or SSD benefits if you make under a certain amount per month, as determined yearly.
It is common to hear that the SSA denies all applicants the first time. While denial rates are high, it is definitely possible to win your case the first time you apply. Obtaining the assistance of an SSI/SSD attorney will greatly increase your chances.
Helping You Obtain the Benefits to Which You Are Entitled
Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability benefits can allow qualified individuals to live with financial comfort. The application and appeals process for receiving these benefits can be complex, however, leaving many individuals without the help they need despite their clear qualifications. For assistance with obtaining the benefits you deserve, contact one of our skilled Gainesville Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Attorneys today to schedule your free consultation.