Can I collect Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits at the same time?

The Social Security Administration runs two programs that provide disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). SSDI pays disability benefits to “insured workers.” An “insured worker,” for purposes of SSDI, is someone who pays FICA taxes (“FICA” stands for “Federal Insurance Contributions Act”). SSDI also pays benefits for the disabled children of insured workers, so long as the children became disabled before they reached the age of 22, as well as to the disabled surviving spouses of deceased insured workers.

SSI, on the other hand, pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have little or no income, or other financial resources. The program also provides benefits to adults without disabilities who are age 65 or older and whose financial means fall within the applicable limits.

As an example, suppose that Edith Keeler, who rents an apartment in Springfield, Ohio, is 45 years old, is unmarried and has liver cancer. Her medical condition has forced her to stop working, leaving her with no income.

Edith decides to apply for disability benefits. She visits a Social Security Administration field office and submits an application. An examiner reviews her application and then forwards it to Disability Determination Services (“DDS”). DDS, a network of local Social Security Administration field offices and state agencies, is responsible for determining whether an applicant for disability benefits has a disability that qualifies under the applicable rules. In Edith’s case, DDS determines that she is disabled. Therefore, she is eligible to receive SSDI benefits.

In order to be eligible to receive SSI benefits, Edith’s financial resources and monthly income—including her SSDI benefits—must be less than the corresponding amounts established under the Social Security Administration’s guidelines. All of the property that Edith owns (for example, bank accounts, cars, cash, real estate, and stocks and bonds) constitutes her “resources.” Edith rents her apartment and does not own any real estate, nor does she own any stocks or bonds. She does own one car worth $1,500.00, and she has $250.00 in a checking account. Edith otherwise owns no property. She also has no income because she is unemployed as the result of her medical condition.

Currently, the limit on the value of a single applicant’s resources (property, in plain language) is $2,000.00. Some resources, however, are exempt and do not count towards this limit. Among other things, an applicant can exempt one house and one car. Accordingly, Edith has resources worth only a total of $250.00 (the balance in her checking account) because her car is exempt.

With respect to the monthly income limit, the Social Security Administration uses a formula to determine eligibility. The value of Edith’s resources is under the limit, and because Edith has no income, she would probably be eligible to receive SSI benefits.

Given that Edith is disabled for purposes of SSDI, and given that her financial resources and income are under the limits applicable to SSI, Edith is eligible to receive both SSDI benefits and SSI benefits. The total amount of Edith’s monthly benefit, however, cannot be more than the maximum possible benefit that she would receive from SSI alone. For 2011, the maximum monthly SSI benefit for a single recipient is $674.00.

In other words, were Edith to receive $600.00 per month in SSDI benefits, then her total monthly benefit would still be $674.00, which would consist of $600.00 per month from SSDI and $74.00 per month from SSI. Were Edith eligible to receive $700.00 per month from SSDI, then she would not be eligible to receive any SSI benefits.

ssi payment amount Applying for either of these programs can be complicated, and qualifying is often difficult. The examples above have been simplified and are offered only to give a very basic understanding of SSDI and SSI. In fact, a significant percentage of applications in Ohio are initially denied by the Social Security Administration. When an application is denied, however, the applicant has the right to appeal. If you would like more information or have been wrongfully denied Social Security Benefits then call the Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 or complete our online free consultation form.