Common Mistakes - Applying for the Wrong Type of Benefits

One of the easiest mistakes to make when applying for Social Security Disability benefits is to apply for a type of benefits that you are not qualified for. There are some similarities regarding the way that Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) work, but there are also some important differences. Most people don’t qualify for both (there are exceptions) and applying for the wrong type of benefit can cost you valuable time in receiving your disability benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance, as the name implies, is an insurance program overseen by the Social Security Administration. Unlike private insurance, in which you write out a check to cover your premiums, the SSA automatically deducts your premium payments from your paycheck in the form of FICA taxes. The program is not optional. If you are working, you are required to pay into the FICA program. In most cases, your employer also must make payments into FICA for you (self-employed persons and independent contractors must pay all of their own FICA payments).

To qualify for SSDI, you must have earned enough “credits” with the SSA. You earn credits by paying into the FICA program. Credits are based on your income and the amount you pay for FICA. You can earn up to four credits per year worked. The number of credits you need to have earned in order to qualify for SSDI is based on a sliding scale. Younger workers can qualify with fewer credits than older workers. In most cases, if you have worked full time for at least five of the past ten years, you will have earned enough credits to qualify for SSDI. Of course, you will still need to prove that you are disabled and unable to continue working full time.

On the other hand, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) has its eligibility based on the need of the recipients. You still need to be disabled to qualify, and the qualifications for disability with the SSA are the same regardless of what type of benefits you are applying for. However, to qualify for SSI, you must have both low income and net worth.

To determine your personal resources, the SSI will consider all of your possessions except for your house and one vehicle. Your total resources cannot exceed $2,000 for a single person or $3,000 for a married couple. If you have any other sources of income, the amount of SSI you are eligible for will be proportionately deducted.

In either case, you would be well advised to consult a professional before applying for benefits. Not only can they give you the most qualified advice regarding whether to apply for SSI, SSDI, or both; but they will have a great deal of insight regarding the best way to proceed with your claim to give you the best chance of having it approved in the early stages of the process. If you qualify for SSDI (and especially if you qualify for SSI), you can’t afford to wait to start collecting your benefits. Consult with a Social Security Disability advocate or attorney and make sure you’re applying for the right benefits today.