Social Security Disability/Supplemental Security Income


The main difference between Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the fact that SSDI is available to workers who have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits, while SSI disability benefits are available to low-income individuals who have either never worked or who haven’t earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI.

Supplemental Security Income is a program that is strictly need-based, according to income and assets, and is funded by general fund taxes. SSI has nothing to do with work history, but strictly with financial need. To meet the SSI income requirements, you must have less than $2,000 in assets (or $3,000 for a couple) and a very limited income. Disabled people who are eligible under the income requirements for SSI are also able to receive Medicaid in the state they reside in.

Social Security Disability Insurance is funded through payroll taxes. SSDI recipients are considered “insured” because they have worked for a certain number of years and have made contributions to the Social Security trust fund in the form of FICA Social Security taxes. SSDI candidates must be younger than 65 and have earned a certain number of “work credits.” After receiving SSDI for two years, a disabled person will become eligible for Medicare.


STEP 1: Are you working? If you are working, and your earnings averaged more than $1,260 per month (2020), that is considered Substantial Gainful Activity, and Social Security probably won’t consider you to be disabled.

STEP 2: Is your condition severe? Your impairments must interfere with basic work-related activities for you to be considered disabled. Your physical and/or mental impairment must be proved by medical evidence and must have lasted or be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

STEP 3: Is your condition found in the list of disabling impairments? Social Security has a listing of impairments for each of the major body systems. If your disability is described in the listing, that automatically means you are disabled. If it is not, go to the next step.

STEP 4: Can you do the work you did previously? If your conditions are severe Social Security must determine if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did in the last 15 years. If it does not, your claim will be denied. If it does, your claim will be considered further.

STEP 5: Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do the work you did in the last 15 years, Social Security looks to see if you can do any other type of work. They consider your age, education, and past work experience. If you cannot do any other kind of work, your claim will be approved.

Individuals who are 18 to 44 are considered young individuals. These individuals must prove they meet a listing or prove that their conditions prevent them from doing sedentary work on a sustained basis. Sedentary work takes place mostly sitting down, but allows lifting to 10 pounds, occasionally carrying objects (like files), and walking and/or standing up to two hours per day.

Need help navigating the SSDI system?  Contact our Tuscaloosa, Alabama office at 205-553-5353 for your free consultation.