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Basic Facts about the Federal Disability Programs - SSD and SSI

I read an interesting statistic recently that was published in a well-known online newspaper. According to the article, one out of three otherwise-healthy adults will experience a long term state of disability (due to an accident or illness and lasting a month or longer, with the possibility of being permanent) prior to age sixty.

Upon reading this statistic, I immediately perked up since one out of three odds is fairly high. However, I had little trouble believing the statistic: as a former disability claims examiner, it was once my job to do nothing but evaluate the records of individuals both young and old who had been severely affected by an injury or illness. Most individuals, however, unless they've known someone whose ability to work was profoundly diminished by an impairment, never consider the possibility that they might, at some point, become disabled. Unfortunately, the limiting effects of an accident or disease are closer than many of us would care to know.

So, what does an individual who can no longer work do? Answer: they file for benefits. The next obvious question, of course, is what kind of benefits? Answer: everything you may possibly be eligible for, incuding workers compensation benefits, short term disability benefits, long term disability benefits, and, last but not least, federal disability benefits.

Federal disability benefits are provided by two programs, both of which are administered by the social security administration. The first program is established under title 2 of the social security act and it is known by many abbrevations and acronyms such as RSDI (retirement, survivors, and disability insurance), DIB (disability insurance benefits), and SSDI (social security disability insurance benefits). However, most individuals simply refer to this program as social security disability, or SSD.

The second disability program that is administered by the social security administration is established under title 16 of the social security act and is known as SSI, which stands for supplemental security income.

How are these two disability programs different? They differ in a number of ways, both in terms of basic eligibility requirements and in terms of intended purpose.

SSI disability is fundamentally a needs-based program. As such, there are certain limiting prerequisites to filing for SSI.

The first prerequisite is that a potential SSI claimant cannot have countable assets that exceed two thousand dollars. What are countable assets? They include money in bank accounts, real estate property other than one's home residence, and almost any asset upon which an individual does not rely for the most basic needs, and which can be liquidated fairly easily.

SSI benefits are intended for minor-age children who are disabled and for disabled adults who are not covered for SSD, as a result of insufficient contributions to the disability system via payroll deductions.

SSD, or social security disability, is different. It is not a needs-based program and is treated by the federal government as a form of insurance. In fact, whether or not an individual can apply for SSD depends soley on their insured status. In other words, has the individual worked long enough to earn the minimum number of credits needed to be insured for SSD? Individuals who are insured for SSD benefits are allowed to file for SSD benefits. Individuals who are not insured for SSD may have a disability application taken in the SSI program, assuming that they do not possess assets in excess of the two thousand dollar limit.

SSD and SSI benefits, however, are both administered by the same federal agency, the social security administration. For this reason, disability claims in either program are handled and processed in an identical fashion.

About the Author: The author of this article is Tim Moore, who, in addition to being a former food stamp caseworker, medicaid caseworker and AFDC caseworker, is a former disability claims examiner. He publishes a blog on the disability process which is titled the Social Security Disability and SSI blog

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