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How To Qualify for SSI & SSDI

Published on May 4th, 2021

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four people in the United States has a disability of some type. A disability that prevents you from working and earning a living creates financial hardships, but the Social Security Administration has two programs that provide monthly payments for those who qualify for benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are similar in that each of them provides monthly cash payments to someone who is disabled and use the same definition of “disabled” to determine whether adults qualify. However, SSI limits the income and financial resources a person may have available to them while SSDI requires that applicants have a work history to qualify.

As you read through the information that follows about how to qualify for SSI and SSDI, keep in mind that an SSI and SSDI attorney at NY Disability can be a valued source for sound advice and skilled representation.

Resource and income limits to qualify for SSI

SSI can be called a “needs-based” program because it only provides benefits to adults or children with limited income and financial resources. Assets that may be used to pay the cost of basic needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing cannot exceed $2,000 in total value for one person or $3,000 for a couple.

Resources include the following:

  • Cash on hand and deposited in banks and other financial institutions.
  • U.S. savings bonds, stocks, bonds, and other investments.
  • Real property, including the value of the land and the home or other structures located on it.
  • Life insurance policies having a combined cash value above $1,500.
  • Personal property.
  • Motor vehicles.

When an application for SSI is submitted on behalf of a blind or disabled child, a portion of the resources of the parents is used to determine if the child qualifies for benefits. Social Security also uses this process of deeming resources to attribute resources of a stepparent or, in the case of a married adult applying for SSI, a spouse to the applicant.

There are exclusions to the list of countable resources, including a home and vehicle. The value of a home and the land on which it is located that you use as a principal residence do not count as a resource. The same holds true for the value of a motor vehicle used primarily for the personal use of you or a member of your household.

Income earned from work or other sources, such as state unemployment benefits or payments received from a pension, reduces your SSI benefits. If your income exceeds the monthly benefit paid by SSI, which for 2021 is $794 for an individual and $1,191 for a couple. Some income is excluded and does not count against your SSI, so you should speak with an SSI lawyer at NY Disability to learn how income affects your ability to qualify for SSI.

Resource and income limits to qualify for SSI benefits do not apply when you apply for benefits through the SSDI program. However, there is a work requirement you must meet to qualify for SSDI.

Work history to qualify for SSDI

SSDI does not have a needs-based component as does SSI, but you must have a work history to qualify for benefits. You must have worked at a job or through self-employment and paid Social Security taxes on the income to earn work credits. For 2021, you earn a work credit for every $1,470 that you earn up to a maximum of four credits per year.

The number of work credits that you need to qualify for SSDI and how recently they must be earned depends on your age at the onset of the disability. Younger workers need fewer work credits. For example, if you become disabled before reaching 28 years of age, Social Security requires that you have six work credits, which is the equivalent of working for 1.5 years. If you become disabled at 60 years of age, you need to have worked for at least 9.5 years to earn the 38 work credits required to qualify for benefits.

You must be disabled to qualify for SSI and SSDI

The definition of “disabled” used to determine if you qualify for benefits is the same for adults applying for SSI and SSDI. You must have a disability caused by a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that makes you unable to engage in substantial gainful activity. The impairment or impairments need to have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months or be expected to cause death.

An SSI and SSDI attorney can help

Complying with the regulations and procedures to qualify for disability benefits can be challenging, but you do not have to do it on your own. Help is available from an SSI and SSDI lawyer at NY Disability. Contact us today to get advice during a free consultation about how we can help with applications and appeals.


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