The Social Security Administration disburses disability payments to individuals through two programs: Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. The SSA uses the same definition of disability to determine if a person qualifies to receive SSDI payments, SSI payments, or both. The SSA also considers individuals' work histories when determining eligibility for SSDI benefits and financial resources when reviewing eligibility for SSI payments.
Unless individuals suffer from chronic or terminal diseases that make them immediately eligible to receive disability income, the SSA evaluates disability when they make their claims to receive benefits. The SSA requires a person’s condition to satisfy two criteria before declaring the individual disabled. First, individuals who suffer a disability that prevents them from continuing work they performed in the past and from pursuing work in another field, and if the disability is expected to result in the sufferer’s death or last a minimum of 12 consecutive months.
In general, the SSA requires workers to work and pay taxes into the Social Security Trust Fund for an age-related number of years, to qualify for SSDI payments. The SSA also considers certain relatives of a qualified worker eligible to receive disability income based on the worker’s record, however. In other words, the SSA views a qualified worker’s current and former spouses, children, parents and grandchildren as potentially eligible to receive SSDI payments, regardless of their respective work histories.
Criteria for a qualified worker’s family members to receive SSDI benefits based on the worker’s record vary depending on the nature of the relation between the worker and a given relative. For a worker’s current or former spouse to receive benefits, he must be at least 50. The SSA further stipulates that a worker’s former spouse remain single or that a subsequent marriage occur after the ex-spouse turns 50 for him to receive SSDI income. If a worker’s ex-spouse is the primary caregiver for the worker’s minor or disabled child, he is eligible to receive SSDI payments at any age regardless of his current marital status.
Comparatively, the SSA considers a qualified worker’s biological or legally adopted child eligible to receive SSDI payments if the child suffers a disability before turning 22.
The SSA does not consider a person’s work history when determining eligibility to receive SSI disability payments. Instead, the SSA reviews a candidate’s disability, income and financial resources. If a disabled person’s income remains below levels identified in the SSA’s 2011 Red Book and combined resources equal less than $2,000, or $3,000 if married, the SSA considers him eligible to receive SSI disability payments.