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What are the primary differences between disability benefits?

The importance of understanding that there are different types of disability benefits and different ways of qualifying through the Social Security Administration cannot be overstated. There are two primary types of disability benefits offered by the Social Security Administration to protect disabled individuals and their families: Social Security Disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income. Although each program provides assistance to disabled individuals, different groups of disabled individuals may qualify for one set of benefits over another.

The primary difference is that Social Security Disability benefits are based on the work history of the applicant who has paid into the program. Supplemental Security Income, on the other hand, does not look at the applicant's work history, but instead determines if they are of limited income and resources to determine if they qualify for benefits. SSD benefits are intended for disabled individuals who are no longer able to work because of the disability they are suffering from, while SSI benefits are intended for disabled individuals of limited means who do not have the necessary work history to qualify for SSD benefits.

Recipients of SSI can include the disabled, blind, elderly, children and others. SSD benefits are available to disabled or blind workers, their children, surviving spouses and others. To be eligible for SSD benefits, the applicant must suffer from a physical or mental health condition that creates a disability and is expected to last for 12 months or longer, or result in death. Certain medical conditions may qualify for expedited claims processing. Both programs generally require the existence of a qualifying physical/mental condition, unless benefits are being assigned for another reason. The two programs are, of course, funded differently and there are other differences it can be helpful to be familiar with as well.

The two programs share that they are an important resource for disabled individuals. Understanding the different options available can help disabled individuals select the best option for them, determine if they qualify and successfully apply for oftentimes much-needed benefits.

Source:, "What is the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?" Accessed Jan. 9, 2017

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