If You Can't Work Due to a Disability, We Can Help You Determine Eligibility for SSI and SSDI and Apply for the Appropriate Program

Social Security disability benefits can provide steady income for people with severe medical conditions that prevent employment or prevent them from working at the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level. Unfortunately, navigating the application process and gaining approval can be difficult. Not only is it lengthy and time-consuming, but the similar acronyms for the two Social Security Administration (SSA) disability programs—SSI and SSDI—often make things even more confusing. 

Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place for help. Disability Services of America is an SSA-approved Employment Network (EN) that helps clients with disabling medical issues explore their Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) eligibility, complete their application, and collect the benefits they deserve. 

Examining Disability Programs: Needs-Based Assistance vs. Insurance-Based Coverage 

Being unable to work and provide for yourself and your family can be frightening. Thankfully, there’s help for people in this concerning situation. The Social Security Administration manages two distinct programs that provide financial assistance to people with severe medical conditions that prevent substantial gainful employment: SSI and SSDI. 

Though they’re administered by the same federal agency and share a mission to improve the lives of people with disabilities, there are key differences between the two programs’ eligibility requirements and the populations they serve. Here's what you should know about SSI and SSDI and how Disability Services of America can help you explore your eligibility and apply for benefits.

SSI Is a Needs-Based Assistance Program

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based or means-tested assistance program designed to help people with severe disabilities and limited income and resources. Eligibility for SSI is primarily based on financial need, and the SSA imposes strict income and asset limits on applicants. 

SSDI Is Insurance-Based Coverage

An insurance program, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), provides benefits for claimants with qualifying conditions who have worked in jobs covered by Social Security and paid Social Security taxes. Instead of financial need, eligibility for SSDI hinges on your work history and earnings record.

Exploring Eligibility for SSI and SSDI

Still not sure whether you qualify for SSI or SSDI? Let’s delve deeper into the programs’ eligibility criteria.

SSI Eligibility 

Qualifying for SSI requires meeting the SSA’s strict definition of disability, which includes being unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment (MDI) expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. Additionally, your income and resources—including cash, bank accounts, and other assets—must fall below the SSA’s specified threshold.

SSDI Eligibility 

People applying for SSDI must also have a qualifying MDI that meets the SSA’s duration requirement—meaning that it’s estimated to last for a year or longer or expected to be terminal. However, unlike SSI, which bases eligibility on income and resources, SSDI eligibility requirements evaluate how many work credits you’ve accumulated. Though the number of required credits varies based on your age at the time of disability onset, adults typically need 40 credits, with 20 earning in the last 10 years leading up to disability.

Understanding Concurrent Eligibility: Qualifying for Both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

In some cases, it’s possible to qualify for SSI and SSDI simultaneously. Known as concurrent eligibility, this situation typically occurs when your SSDI benefit amount is lower than the maximum SSI benefit amount due to limited earnings history or other factors. You may also qualify for concurrent eligibility due to state supplements or household composition.

Navigating the Social Security Disability Application Process

Unfortunately, applying for Social Security disability benefits doesn’t get any easier once you’ve determined the right program. The application process is notoriously difficult, with up to 70 percent of applicants denied in the first of the SSA’s five-step evaluation. Here’s what you should know.

Common Reasons the SSA Denies Disability Claims

According to the Administration, some of the most common reasons it denies SSI and SSDI claims include:

  • Application mistakes. Errors or omissions in the application paperwork are a frequent reason the SSA rejects claims. Our team can help you prepare and submit your application to ensure it’s correct.
  • Inadequate medical evidence. Qualifying for disability requires providing copious evidence to the SSA, and medical evidence reigns supreme. We can help you determine what evidence is most useful and ensure that it comes from sources the SSA deems acceptable.
  • Insufficient work credits. For SSDI applicants, not having enough work credits—or not having enough recently earned credits—can lead to a denial. However, if you don’t qualify for SSDI, you might qualify for SSI.
  • Excessive income and resources. SSI applicants sometimes find that they have too much income or too many assets to qualify for benefits. We can help you review your SSDI eligibility and complete the application.

Applying for Social Security disability benefits can be daunting. Get the step-by-step support you need to determine if you qualify and brave the application process.

How Working With a Knowledgeable Disability Advocate When Applying for SSI or SSDI Could Increase Your Chances of Approval

Completing your application with the help of an experienced disability advocate can boost your confidence—and your chances of approval for benefits. Here’s how the team at our SSA-approved Employment Network (EN) assists you.

  • Explore your eligibility. We walk you through the eligibility criteria for SSI and SSDI to determine whether you qualify. 
  • Gather medical evidence. We help you gather and organize extensive medical evidence proving the existence and severity of your disabling medical condition.
  • Collect non-medical evidence. The SSA also considers non-medical evidence, such as a pain journal or symptom diary and statements from your family, friends, supervisors, and coworkers.
  • Complete the application. Our team helps you complete your SSI or SSDI application online or using physical forms. We’ll go over the application thoroughly before submission to ensure that it’s complete and correct. 
  • Prepare the application for submission. After checking your disability application for mistakes or omissions, we review the supporting medical evidence to make sure nothing’s missing.
  • Submit your application to the SSA. We mail your physical application to the appropriate Social Security office or upload your medical evidence to your online application and mark it as “Complete.”
  • Respond to requests from the SSA. After you’ve submitted your SSI or SSDI application, a Social Security disability case manager may contact you to request additional information. We help you handle communications with the SSA and provide timely responses.
  • Receive and review your decision. When you receive your decision letter from the SSA, we’ll review it with you to make sense of it and determine your next steps. If you’re approved, we’ll help you understand when you’ll start receiving payments and if you’re denied, we’ll explain how to file an appeal and guide you through the four-stage appeals process.

Take Advantage of Step-by-Step Guidance for the Social Security Disability Application Process

When you can’t work and are counting on disability benefits to make ends meet, the last thing you need is to get tangled up in bureaucratic red tape. Don’t risk a denial and a delay of the benefits you deserve. Turn to Disability Services of America for comprehensive support for the SSI or SSDI application process. 

However, that’s not all we do. If your condition improves and you want to try returning to work, we can guide you through the SSA’s Ticket to Work program, which allows SSI and SSDI recipients to test their working abilities while safeguarding essential benefits.