How to Apply For SSD, SSDI, and SSI
If you are disabled due to a chronic medical condition, you may be entitled to obtain financial assistance through two programs of the Social Security Administration: Supplemental Security Income, frequently referred to as SSI; and Social Security disability insurance. This article explains what you need to know about the two programs, including qualification guidelines, and the process for filing for benefits for each of them.
Qualifying for benefits for SSI
SSI assists adults at least 65 years of age and blind or disabled adults and children who have limited financial resources and incomes. You need not have a work history to qualify for SSI, which distinguishes it from the SSDI program.
Resources available to an SSI applicant may not exceed $2,000 for a single person and $3,000 for a couple. Social Security includes the value of anything that can be converted into money for food and shelter as countable toward the resource maximums, including the following:
- Money on hand and in accounts at banks and financial institutions.
- Stocks, bonds, and other types of investments.
- Real estate, except the home you own and occupy as your principal residence.
- Motor vehicles, except one vehicle used primarily for personal transportation.
Wages from employment, pension income, and benefits from Social Security all factor into whether you qualify for SSI. However, under a complex formula used by Social Security, the first $20 of your income, whether earned or unearned, and the first $65 of earned income each month are excluded from consideration for purposes of qualifying for SSI along with half of the employment income exceeding the first $65.
SSI considers a portion of the assets and income of the parents when deciding whether a blind or disabled child younger than 18 years of age qualifies for benefits. The SSA refers to this process as “deeming.”
How to file SSI
Depending on the person applying for SSI, one or more of the following options may be available:
- Apply online.
- Apply over the phone.
- Apply at a local Social Security office.
All three options are available to individuals who are blind or disabled or for submitting an SSI application on behalf of a child. Adults who are not disabled and applying for benefits because they are at least 65 years of age may not apply online. Instead, they may complete the application in a telephone call with a Social Security representative or in-person at a local Social Security office. Keep in mind that the in-person option may be limited by COVID-19 precautions imposed by the government.
How to qualify for benefits of SSDI
You must have a work history through employment or self-employment and paid Social Security taxes that allowed you to earn work credits. You may earn a certain amount of work credits for each year of work based upon your earnings. For example, earning $1,470 in wages or income from self-employment in 2021 counts toward one work credit, and you may earn up to 4 work credits a year.
The exact number of work credits you need to qualify for SSDI depends on your age when a medical condition causes you to be disabled. The general rule is you need 40 credits to qualify, but 20 of them must have been earned during the 10 years preceding the year you become disabled.
You must meet the Social Security definition for being disabled. You must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a mental or physical impairment that is medically determinable. The expectation must be that the impairment will last for at least 12 months or cause the death of the person applying for benefits. Neither short-term nor partial disability would qualify you for the benefits of SSDI.
How to file for SSDI
Apply for SSDI benefits as soon as you believe you are disabled and unable to work to avoid unnecessary delays in receiving benefits. Social Security does not pay SSDI benefits during the first six months from the date of onset of the disability.
Applications may be submitted over the phone or at a local Social Security office. You must call first to make an appointment for a phone or in-person application. You also have the option to apply using an online option if you have not had a claim for SSD denied within the last 60 days. Confirmation of the application will be sent to you online or in the mail depending upon the method you chose for how to file for SSD.
Speak with a Disability Attorney About Applying for Benefits
Whether your questions concern how to file for SSDI or how to file for SSI, a disability attorney can answer them and offer options that may be available to you. For example, depending upon your financial resources, you may be eligible to apply for SSD and SSI.