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The Difference between Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are two federally created programs that help provide individuals with the income they need to support themselves and their families. Sadly, a large percentage of the people that apply for benefits through these two programs are often denied benefits.  Currently in Pennsylvania approximately 60% of initial claims for SSD or SSI are denied.  It also takes quite a bit of time for the claims to be processed.  In Pennsylvania the average case processing time (the time from the date a hearing is first requested to the date of the final decision) is approximately 438 days!  There are certain exceptions to the case processing time, certain dire needs situations and persons with certain disabilities will be automatically awarded benefits pending a formal decision from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income are two separate programs with different requirements for eligibility.  Each program provides modest benefits to help people with basic needs.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is coverage that people earn by working.  In order to qualify the claimant must have a recent work history.  The amount of work required to be eligible for benefits depends on the age of the claimant at the time the disability began.  With SSDI there is a 5 month waiting period for benefits, so essentially 5 months of benefits will be removed from the beginning of the disability period if the claimant is found to be eligible for benefits.  To be eligible for disability benefits the claimant must be unable to meet the threshold for substantial gainful activity (SGA).  There are certain limits to the amount of money a claimant can earn per month and still be eligible for benefits.    

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program that pays benefits based on financial need.  The program is intended to provide cash benefits to aged (65 or older), blind, and disabled people who have little or no income.  Currently for 2015 the monthly maximum SSI amounts are $733 for an individual, $1,100 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse, and $367 for an essential person.  These benefit amounts are subject to reduction based on "countable income".  Under the Act income is anything the claimant receives during a calendar month that he or she can use to meet the needs for food and shelter.  

It is important to remember the requirements of the program define "disability" very strictly.  The programs do not provide benefits for temporary or partial disability.  For a person to be found disabled under the Social Security Act the person must be unable to work due to a severe medical condition that has lasted or is expected to last at least one year or result in death.  The Social Security Administration has strict rules on the medical information that must be included in the application for benefits.  Many of the initial applications for benefits are denied.  If denied the claimant can request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge for reconsideration.  A claimant may be unlikely to succeed without the guidance of an attorney with experience with SSDI and SSI.  If you or a loved one have been denied benefits under one of these programs contact Friday & Cox LLC for a free case evaluation.


"The Facts About Social Security's Disability Program" Social Security Administration, SSA Publication No. 05-10560

"The Faces and Facts of Disability" Social Security Administration,

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