Many people are confused as the eligibility criteria for the two disability programs administered by the Social Security Administration. The confusion most likely occurs because both disability programs use the same medical determination process. However, it is the non-disability criteria that separate the two programs: Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability.
Social Security disability, not SSI, is dependent upon insured status that is earned through work activity. The minimum amount of work credits (quarters of coverage) needed for insured status is six and the maximum needed to be fully insured with Social Security is forty quarters of coverage. An individual’s age at the time they become disabled determines the amount of credits they need to be "fully insured".
Social Security applicants must cross one more hurdle to be entitled to Social Security disability. They must also be "disability insured". Disability insured status requires that an individual be fully insured and have twenty quarters of coverage in the past ten years to be disability insured. This means an individual must have worked five out of the last ten years prior to becoming disabled to be insured for Social Security disability.
There are exceptions for individuals who are under the age of thirty-one and certain other cases. Work activity also determines the amount of an individual's disability benefitS and if there is any extra money on their record to pay their dependents (i.e. children, spouses, and in rare instances parents).
Supplemental Security Income disability (SSI), on the other hand, has no insured status requirement. In fact, an individual could potentially be eligible for SSI even if they have never worked. Additionally, SSI disability allows eligibility to children who are disabled themselves. But if you are an adult who receives SSI disability, your children will not receive benefits simply because they are your dependents.
SSI eligibility depends upon an individual’s income and resources, because it is a need-based disability program. Currently, the resource limit for an individual is $2000.00 and the couple’s limit is $3000.00. Resources are cash on hand, bank accounts, land other than where an individual or couple reside, vehicles other than the highest valued, heir property, 401Ks, stocks, bonds, etc.
If an individual meets the resource limit (i.e. asset limit), they still have to meet an income limit. Income is defined as wages, pensions, unemployment benefits, short or long term disability benefits, rental income etc.
Income limit amounts vary depending upon family composition. Parents’ income and resources are counted against children until they are eighteen. Additionally, the SSI benefit amount is set by Social Security each year and there is no possibility of additional money for their dependents. In a nutshell, Supplemental Security Income disability has nothing to due with insured status, so there is no connection with work credits and SSI eligibility.
Return to: Social Security Disability Resource Center . or read answers to Questions