A Chicago Disability attorney can explain eligibility

The Social Security Administration provides two types of disability benefits for people who cannot work gainfully due to disablement. As any Chicago disability attorney can explain, some people qualify for benefits under both the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs. However, many people only qualify for benefits from one program, since the criteria for each program are distinct.

Earned coverage

SSDI benefits are awarded to people who qualify as “insured” based on their earnings. The Social Security Administration requires SSDI beneficiaries to have a certain number of credits, which are based on personal income. In 2015, every $1,220 of income that an individual pays Social Security taxes on is worth one credit. Age determines the number of total credits an individual needs as well as the number of credits the individual must have earned in recent years.

Although SSDI benefits are not need-based, the SSDI program establishes income limits. People who earn more than $1,090 per month in 2015 cannot typically collect benefits because they are engaging in “substantial gainful activity.” The SSA makes an exception for statutorily blind individuals, who can earn up to $1,820.

Financial need

SSI benefits are awarded based on financial need, rather than previous earnings. As a Chicago disability attorney can explain, a person must meet several income-related criteria to qualify for SSI:

  • The individual cannot engage in substantial gainful activity, which is defined the same way for the SSDI and SSI programs.
  • The individual’s income after exclusions cannot exceed the Federal Benefit Rate. In 2015, the FBR for an individual is $733. The exclusions the SSA allows discount slightly more than half of a person’s income, so an individual earning over $733 may still qualify for benefits.
  • SSI applicants or beneficiaries cannot own assets worth more than $2,000. Savings accounts, cash, real estate and personal property all count as assets. However, a few assets, such as a personal residence and one vehicle, are exempt.

If a person is married or resides with parents as a minor, the SSA also takes the spouse’s or parent’s assets and income into account.

People with adequate earnings records and limited financial resources may qualify for concurrent SSI and SSDI benefits. If a person’s SSDI benefit falls below $733, the person will receive an SSI benefit that brings the total benefit amount to $733.

Seeking benefits

While the financial criteria for SSDI and SSI benefit eligibility are distinct, the medical criteria are comparable. To qualify for either program, an individual must prove he or she meets the strict SSA definition of disability. To do this, applicants may benefit from working with a Chicago disability attorney during the application process.