Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are two closely related programs in that they’re both designed to be safety nets for people who are unable to perform substantial gainful activity due to a disability – and they’re both handled by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
However, that’s where the similarity ends. Unlike SSDI, SSI has no work requirements that have to be met. Also, unlike SSDI, your eligibility is heavily tied to your income and financial resources, because SSI is strictly a “needs-based” program.
Who can file for SSI benefits?
You can file for SSI if you have limited income (although not all income is countable, such as public assistance and SNAP benefits) and limited resources (although the home you actually live in and one car are usually not counted) and you are:
- Disabled, blind or over 65 years of age
- Are a citizen or national of the United States or meet certain qualifications as a noncitizen
- Live in one of the 50 U.S. states, the Northern Mariana Islands or Washington D.C., or meet certain exceptions granted to the children of military members stationed abroad or students who are studying overseas
Because the financial determination process is very complicated and not all income or resources are considered, it’s generally wisest to talk to a Social Security Claims Representative and ask to be screened for eligibility. That eliminates a lot of guesswork that could discourage you from filing.
It’s important to note that there is no minimum age to qualify for SSI. Children who are under 18 years of age may be eligible for benefits if they have a disability. However, their parents’ income and resources generally have to be considered when SSA looks at the child’s financial eligibility for the program.
This means that many children who have qualifying disabilities do not meet the financial eligibility requirements for SSI until they turn 18 years of age. Once that happens, their parents’ income and resources are no longer part of the equation. If your child was previously denied SSI benefits before they became an adult, it may be worthwhile to explore that option again now that they’re over 18.
Unfortunately, passing the financial hurdles for SSI eligibility is just part of the process of gaining approval. You still have to meet SSA’s exacting definitions of what it means to be “disabled,” too. Seeking legal guidance can help.