Social Security Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between Social Security disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income disability?
Social Security Disability is financed through Social Security taxes paid by workers and employers while SSI is financed through general revenues and is not based on your work history. SSD eligibility is based on your taxable work and whether you have sufficient credits to be deemed “insured” for disability benefits. SSI is based on need and you can receive these benefits even if you have not paid into Social Security.
Am I entitled to health coverage if I am awarded SSD or SSI benefits?
Yes, if you are awarded SSD benefits you will be eligible for medicare after two years. If you are awarded SSi you will automatically become eligible for Medicaid.
What do I need to show I am disabled for SSD or SSI benefits?
The Social Security Administration follows a five step analysis to determine if you qualify for disability benefits. The steps are:
1. Are you working?
If you are working in 2016 and your earnings average more than $1,130 a month, you generally cannot be considered disabled.
If you are not working, we go to Step 2.
2. Is your condition “severe”?
Your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered. If it does not, we will find that you are not disabled. If your condition does interfere with basic work-related activities, we go to Step 3.
3. Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions?
For each of the major body systems, we maintain a list of medical conditions that are so severe they automatically mean that you are disabled. If your condition is not on the list, we have to decide if it is of equal severity to a medical condition that is on the list. If it is, we will find that you are disabled. If it is not, we then go to Step 4.
4. Can you do the work you did previously?
If your condition is severe but not at the same or equal level of severity as a medical condition on the list, then we must determine if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did previously. If it does not, your claim will be denied. If it does, we proceed to Step 5.
5. Can you do any other type of work?
If you cannot do the work you did in the past, we see if you are able to adjust to other work. We consider your medical conditions and your age, education, past work experience and any transferable skills you may have. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. If you can adjust to other work, your claim will be denied.
Is there a time limit for getting Social Security disability benefits?
No. Your disability benefits will continue as long as your medical condition has not improved and you cannot work. Your case will be reviewed from time-to-time to make sure you are still disabled. If you are still receiving disability benefits when you reach retirement age, your disability benefits will automatically convert to retirement benefits.
Why is there a five-month waiting period for Social Security disability benefits?
The five month waiting period ensures that during the early months of disability, we do not pay benefits to persons who do not have long-term disabilities. Social Security disability benefits can be paid only after you have been disabled continuously throughout a period of five full calendar months. Therefore, Social Security disability benefits will be paid beginning with the sixth full month after the date your disability began. You are not entitled to benefits for any month in the waiting period.
What is the earliest age I can receive Social Security disability benefits?
There is no minimum age as long as you meet the Social Security definition of disability. But to qualify for disability benefits you must have worked long and recently enough under Social Security to earn the required number of work credits.
You can earn up to a maximum of four work credits each year. The amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels rise. The number of work credits you need for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. The rules for how much work you need to qualify for disability benefits are as follows:
- Before age 24–You may qualify if you have 6 credits earned in the 3-year period ending when your disability starts.
- Age 24 to 31–You may qualify if you have credit for working half the time between age 21 and the time you become disabled. For example, if you become disabled at age 27, you would need credit for 3 years of work (12 credits) out of the past 6 years (between ages 21 and 27).
- Age 31 or older–In general, you need to have the number of work credits shown in the chart below. Unless you are blind, you must have earned at least 20 of the credits in the 10 years immediately before you became disabled.
What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
SSI is Social Security’s program providing monthly income to people age 65 or older, blind or disabled who have limited income and financial resources. You also can be eligible even if you have never worked in a job covered under Social Security.
To receive SSI, your financial resources (savings and assets you own) cannot exceed $2,000 or $3,000 if you are married. If you are married, a portion of your spouse’s income may be counted when determining if you are eligible.
Generally, to be eligible for SSI, an individual also must be a resident of the United States and must be a citizen or a noncitizen lawfully admitted for permanent residence. Also, some noncitizens granted a special immigration status by the Department of Homeland Security may be eligible.
How much will I receive in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits?
The amount of your SSI benefit depends, in part, on where you live. The basic SSI payment is the same nationwide. However, many states add a state supplement to the basic SSI payment. Effective January 2009 through 2010, the basic SSI payment for an eligible individual was $674 per month and $1,011 per month for an eligible couple.
How does Social Security define living arrangements for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
Owning or renting a home are types of living arrangements. Living in an institution is another type of living arrangement. A living arrangement for SSI refers to:
- Where a recipient lives;
- Who else lives in the household; and
- What the recipient and others pay towards the household expenses.
An SSI beneficiary’s living arrangement can affect the SSI payment amount. For example, we may reduce a beneficiary’s SSI payment up to one-third if the recipient receives food or shelter paid by another person.