Types of Benefits

Social Security Disability (SSD) Benefits

Social Security pays disability benefits to you and certain members of your family if you have worked long enough and have a medical condition that prevents you from working or is expected to prevent you from working for at least twelve (12) months or in death.

The amount of your disability payment depends on the amount of your earnings history.  This benefit is frequently called “Social Security Disability” which is very different from “Supplemental Security Income” called SSI.

Federal law requires a very strict definition of disability. While some programs give money to people with partial disabilities or short-term disability, Social Security does not. Unless your disability is expected to last at least 12 months or until date of death, Social Security Disability will to apply. 

In general, to get disability benefits, you must meet two (2) different earnings test:

  • A “recent work” test based on your age at the time you become disabled; and

  • A “duration of work” test to show you worked long enough under Social Security.

Certain family members of disabled workers can also receive money from Social Security if the disabled worker is awarded Social Security Disability Benefits.  If you are awarded benefits, certain members of your family may qualify for benefits based on your work.

They include:

  • Your spouse, if he/she is age 65 or older;

  • Your spouse, at any age if he/she is caring for a child of yours who is younger than 16 or disabled; and

  • Your unmarried child, including an adopted child, or, in some cases, a step child or grandchild.

Child benefits may be available when:

  • The child is younger than eighteen (18) years old; or

  • Younger than nineteen (19) years old if the child is in school full-time; or

  • Your unmarried child, age eighteen (18) or older, if he/she has a disability that started before age twenty-two (22). The child's disability must also meet the definition of disability for adults.

For more information on this you may go online at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10029.pdf.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits

SSI benefits makes monthly payments to people who have low income and few resources and are:

  • Age 65 or older

  • Blind

  • Disabled

Whether you can get SSI depends on your income and resources (things you own).  You do not have to have paid into the system nor have the insured status, which is required for Social Security Disability, to receive SSI benefits. Income is money you receive from wages, Social Security benefits, and pensions. Income also includes such things as food and shelter. The amount of income you can receive each month and still get SSI benefits depends partly on where you live. This varies from state to state.

The medical criteria for SSI is the same as the medical criteria for Social Security Disability.  However, as the SSI program is for low income and needy individuals there are complicated rules that apply with regard to the amount of income and assets that you have in order to qualify for SSI.

More detailed information is available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-11000.pdf.