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What is the difference between SSD and SSI benefits?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are two programs that may help struggling Ohio residents. While they have similar-sounding acronyms, and are both meant to help people who can't work, there are some important differences between them.

SSD is a program funded mostly by Social Security taxes that are taken out of workers' wages. As such, one of the requirements necessary to qualify for SSD is enough work "credits." These credits are earned by receiving an amount of qualifying wages or self-employment income during a year. The exact amount of wages needed to earn a credit varies from year to year, but the number of credits a person can earn is capped at four per year. To qualify for SSD, the number of credits needed depends upon your age at the time you are disabled. As a general matter, half of the total number of required credits must have been earned within the last decade. Further, to get SSD benefits, you must meet the rather strict definition of "disabled." To be considered disabled for the purposes of SSD, you must be unable to do the work you did previously, be unable to adjust to other work due to your medical problem, and the disability must be expected to last longer than one year, or to lead to your death.

SSI, on the other hand, is funded by money from the general treasury, and is therefore not tied to your work history. It does require, however, that you meet the definition of "disabled" given above, or that you are blind, or over the age of 65. Further, to qualify for SSI payments, you must have "limited resources." This means that your "countable resources" be less than $2,000 for an individual, or $3,000 for a couple. The definition of what resources are "countable" is complex, but it generally means wages received, money in savings and other assets owned.

As can be seen, federal regulations regarding benefits for those with an inability to work can be difficult to navigate. If you think you may qualify for SSD or SSI, or if you have applied but believe you have been wrongly denied benefits, you may wish to consider consulting a legal professional.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Benefits for People with Disabilities," accessed Aug. 12, 2014.

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