If you are disabled and unable to work, you may be eligible for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration. There are, however, two disability programs, and each of them has its nonmedical qualifying standards. One of them, the Supplemental Security Income or SSI program, limits the assets you can own while the other, Social Security Disability Insurance or SSD, does not. For example, someone applying or receiving SSI cannot have resources with a total value of $2,000, including money in the bank. That, however, is not, as you will see, the situation where money in the bank for SSD benefits does make you ineligible.
What is SSD?
Assets you own do not play a role in decisions made by Social Security about whether you qualify for SSD benefits. Unlike SSI, which is a disability program paying benefits based on financial need, SSD pays benefits to people who are insured as a result of contribution to the Social Security trust fund through payroll taxes.
You must work at a job or earn an income through self-employment and pay Social Security taxes on your earnings. Depending on your particular circumstances, you may also qualify for benefits through the earnings of your spouse or parents.
To be “insured” and eligible to receive SSD benefits, you must have a work history. As a general rule, Social Security looks for one showing you worked for about a quarter of your adult life with at least five of those years being within the 10 years before the onset of your disability. The duration of your work history and how recently you must have worked depends upon how old you are when you become disabled. A consultation with an SSD attorney can help you to determine whether your work history makes you eligible to apply for benefits.
Substantial Gainful Activity and Money You Earn
If you worked long enough to qualify for benefits, you still must meet the Social Security definition for being disabled to be approved for benefits. Do not assume that because you received short-term disability benefits from a disability program offered by your state government that you will qualify for SSD benefits.
Being disabled for SSD means that you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity or SGA due to a medically determinable mental or physical impairment expected to result in your death or one that has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months. Although the amount of money you have in the bank does not factor into the process Social Security uses to decide whether you are disabled, the amount you earn at work or through self-employment does get taken into consideration.
Earning more than a certain amount each month from work or self-employment disqualifies a person from receiving payments through SSD depending upon the nature of the disability. If you are blind and working, you may not earn more than $2,190 in 2021 and be classified as unable to engage in substantial gainful activity. A person with a disability other than statutory blindness who earns more than $1,310 a month is capable of engaging in substantial gainful activity according to federal law.
Bank Accounts When Applying for SSD and SSI
While money in the bank and other assets you own may not be a factor when applying for SSD, they become an issue should you also decide to apply for SSI. Someone who qualifies for SSD may discover that although they worked long enough to qualify for benefits, the monthly payment from SSD is insufficient to pay for food, clothing, shelter, and other basic needs.
The reason for a low monthly benefit through SSD is that Social Security computes the monthly payment based on lifetime average earnings working at jobs or self-employment and paying Social Security taxes. Working at low-paying jobs would reduce your SSD benefit and could allow you to qualify for SSI.
As with the SSD program, SSI pays benefits provided you meet the Social Security definition for being blind or disabled. The primary difference, aside from not needing a work history to qualify for SSI, is the strict limits on income and financial resources imposed on recipients of SSI. Other than a few excluded assets, such as a home used as a primary residence and a motor vehicle used for personal transportation, the value of resources you own may not exceed $2,000 or $3,000 for a couple, including money in the bank.
An SSD Attorney Can Help
If you have questions about qualifying for disability benefits through Social Security, NY Disability can help. A free consultation with attorney Daniel Berger or one of our other gifted SSD lawyers can provide answers to your disability questions as well as offering options. Call 718-691-7475 today for a free consultation.