Social Security and Disability: What is it?

Social Security is more than the traditional retirement pension program that most of us are familiar with. The various programs are commonly described as old-age, survivors or disability insurance. I will focus on the disability programs here. The disability program is divided into two types: SSDI and SSI.

Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI pays a monthly amount based on prior wages. A worker must have worked for 6 to 40 quarters depending on the age of the applicant to qualify for SSDI upon a finding of disability. The number of quarters that must have been worked to qualify increases with the age of the worker. A disabled worker can often be paid two to three times more than someone qualifying under the poverty program-SSI.

The definition of disability is extremely strict. Disability is the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reasons of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” A claimant must prove a severe impairment resulting in the inability to engage in previous work or any other substantial gainful activity that exists in the national economy. If the claimant is able to do work of any type in our country then he is not disabled. Soc. Sec. Act 216(i), 223(d)(1).

The maximum monthly payment to an individual person under Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in 2015 was $733.00. The maximum monthly Social Security benefit for a worker reaching full retirement age in 2015 was $2,663.00.

To qualify for SSI a person must no only prove disability, but also residence, citizenship or be a qualified alien, have limited income and no more than $2,000.00 of countable resources.

Generally, there is a dollar for dollar reduction in benefit for every dollar of income. I will go into more detail on the qualifications in a later blog.

Maybe, the biggest benefit of qualifying for SSI is that you also qualify for Medicaid. The medical expenses paid often far exceed the monthly benefit paid under SSI.

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