There are two kinds of disability payments under Social Security law:
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are disabled and if you worked long enough and recently enough, and paid into Social Security through FICA tax withholdings from your paycheck (or contributions if self-employed). To qualify for SSDI you must have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) says, “The number of work credits needed for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled.” To better understand work credits and how they apply to your specific situation, you could download the SSA’s publication “How You Earn Credits," but given the complexity of the issue, we suggest you seek the advice of a Social Security disability attorney. Like Social Security retirement benefits, the amount of your monthly SSDI benefits will depend on your earnings record.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is based on financial need, not work credits. The Social Security Administration says, “It is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income.” SSI disability benefits are for individuals who are disabled and have either never worked or who haven’t earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits. Some workers have a historical work history but have not worked recently enough to qualify for SSDI; these workers can file for SSI and collect until they reach retirement age, when their Retirement Insurance Benefit will replace SSI (if higher). To be eligible for SSI you must have less than $2,000 in certain assets (or $3,000 for a couple) and, at most, a very limited income.
Medical eligibility for disability benefits is determined in the same manner for both SSDI and SSI. To qualify:
• you must have a disability that has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or result in death,
• you must be unable to do the work you did before, and
• you must show you cannot adjust to other work.
For either program, it is not enough just to say you are disabled –you must be able to prove you are disabled with solid medical evidence, and qualify based on work credits or financial need. Do you qualify? For a free evaluation of your case, give Cuddigan Law a call at (402) 933-5405.