The Social Security Administration has two programs for people with disabilities. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based program. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is another program. In order to qualify for SSDI, a person must have sufficient work history and pay into the disability trust fund through Federal Income Contributions Act taxes. SSDI may allow a beneficiary's spouse and children to qualify for SSDI benefits, but SSI is a program that a person must qualify for on an individual basis. There is no direct way to qualify for SSI based on a spouse's eligibility, but a person may qualify based on their own circumstances.
Things You'll Need
- SSI application
- Medical information
- Financial information
Determine if your disability meets Social Security Administration's definition. In order to be eligible for SSI and/or SSDI, you must have a disability that prevents you from working at any substantial gainful work activity. That disability must be expected to result in death or last at least 12 months.
Determine if you meet the administration's resource limits for the SSI program. In addition to meeting the disability criteria, a person must have less than $2,000 in cash or resources.
Determine if you qualify for a portion of SSDI based on your spouse's eligibility. If you are age 62 or older, or if you are caring for a child that is younger than 16, you and your child may qualify for an SSDI benefit because of your spouse's eligibility.
Apply for benefits if you meet the administration's disability criteria and other requirements for SSI and/or SSDI. The online application is available on the Social Security website, or you can apply in person by going to your local Social Security office. There is one application for both programs.
Tips & Warnings
- If you need assistance applying for benefits or want information about how your benefits may be affected by other sources of income, talk with a certified work incentives coordinator at a Work Incentives Planning and Assistance project funded by SSA. A list of projects in your area can be found on the Social Security website.
- Every person's benefit situation is unique. It is important to understand SSI and SSDI. Understanding the difference between the two programs will allow you to be the best advocate for yourself and your family.
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