Are you preparing to apply for SSI and SSDI? Millions of people across the country receive disability benefits from these two federal programs. Many people also qualify for both.
At Atticus, we work with disability applicants and recipients on a daily basis. We’ll explain the differences between SSI and SSDI, plus how you can get benefits from both programs at the same time.
Can I get SSI and SSDI at the same time?
Yes, it’s possible to receive SSI and SSDI at the same time. Not everyone will qualify, but there’s no harm in applying for both as long as you fill out everything truthfully. SSI and SSDI use the same application and trying for both is also the smart thing to do in some cases. (On a technical note, if you qualify for both, you may see the SSA say you have “concurrent” benefits.)
The easiest way to see if you qualify for SSI and SSDI is to fill out our free online quiz. It only takes a few minutes and if you qualify, we can connect you with a lawyer to help increase your chance of success.
2 reasons to apply for SSI and SSDI at the same time
Anyone is free to apply for SSI and SSDI at the same time, but here are a couple of situations when you should file a dual application:
You think you’ll be accepted very quickly. If you know that you qualify for disability and you expect your application to be approved easily, apply for both programs. SSI payments will start once your application is approved. However, SSDI has a five-month waiting period. So if you’re approved quickly for SSDI, you may have to wait months to get your first benefits. Even if your SSDI payment will be much bigger, applying for both ensures you get some money as soon as possible.
You need health insurance right away. You can get health insurance (Medicaid) through SSI once your application is approved. SSDI has a 24-month waiting period before you can start receiving health insurance (Medicare).
The bottom line is that if you need benefits immediately, applying for SSI is a good idea. SSDI can pay more in the long-run, but it has multiple waiting periods before you can start receiving benefits — even if your application is approved quickly.
How to apply for SSI and SSDI
Both programs use the same application. You just need to check a couple of boxes if you want to apply for SSI alongside SSDI. Look for questions 24a and b, which ask if you plan to file for any other disability benefits (such as SSI).
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a government program that pays monthly benefits and provides Medicare to people who can no longer work because of a disability. As a general rule, you can qualify for SSDI if you’ve worked and paid taxes for at least five out of the past 10 years.
SSDI payments are typically between $500 and $2,900 per month, but how much you get depends on your work history. To apply for SSDI, you’ll provide information about yourself, your medical condition, and your work experience to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) also provides monthly benefits and health insurance to people who can’t work because of a disability. The primary difference between SSI and SSDI is that SSI is intended for low-income individuals and eligibility doesn't depend on your work history. You can qualify for SSI even if you haven’t worked for years.
To receive SSI, you must be a U.S. citizen who is disabled, blind, or at least 65 years old. You must also have limited income and assets. The maximum monthly SSI payment is $914 in 2022. SSI provides Medicaid, too.
Can I get approved for SSDI and denied for SSI?
Yes, it is possible to get approved for SSDI but denied for SSI. If this happens, it’s likely because you have too much income to qualify for SSI. SSI requires applicants to have $2,000 or less in assets ($3,000 for married couples). If your income, savings, or other assets are above that amount, SSDI is probably a better fit.
Can I get approved for SSI and denied for SSDI?
On the flip side, it’s possible to get approved for SSI, but not for SSDI. In this case, you probably don’t have enough work credits. SSDI has strict work requirements. If you haven’t worked and paid taxes for at least five of the past 10 years, it could be hard to qualify.
Maybe you’d rather have SSDI (which typically comes with higher monthly payments), but you only qualify for SSI. There are two things you could do.
If you think you should have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, make sure all of your taxes are filed correctly. You earn work credits through your income and filing Social Security taxes. If you’re self-employed, you’re responsible for fully reporting your income and filing taxes. If you work for the state, like as a teacher or police officer, you might need to opt in to SSA taxes. Having a lawyer help with your application can also increase your chances of success.
If you still don’t have enough work credits, unfortunately, the only option is trying to work more, if you’re physically able, to accumulate more credits. In 2023, you get one credit for every $1,640 you earn (maxing out at four credits per year). You need around 40 total credits for SSDI, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years.
If your application for disability benefits was denied, you aren’t alone. The SSA denies almost 70% of initial applications. On the bright side, you can appeal the decision and people who appeal are much more likely to get approved (almost half of applicants get benefits at this stage).
The type of denial you received could change your options, though:
If you are denied for both SSDI and SSI: This is likely a medical denial. The SSA may need more information to prove that your disability qualifies for benefits. You can and should appeal the decision. Also consider working with a disability lawyer. Applicants are three times more likely to have their claim approved if they have a lawyer.
If you get denied for only one program: This type of denial is generally for a technical reason — maybe you earn too much to qualify for SSI or don’t meet the SSDI work requirements. This kind of denial is more difficult to appeal. The only way to really change the decision is to prove you meet the work history or income and asset requirements.
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