Learn the differences between SSI and SSDI benefits. Plus, find out how a Social Security disability attorney can help with your application process.

Approximately 61 million people receive Social Security benefits each month, which accounts for approximately one in five people in the U.S.  If you are in the process of applying for these benefits, you likely have questions.

This is understandable. The Social Security system can seem confusing if you are new to it. Don’t worry, there is help out there.

One of the best things you can do is to hire a Social Security benefits attorney. However, before hiring a legal professional for help with your situation, you should start with the basics. One of the first things to understand is how SSI and SSDI are different.

SSI and SSDI: What’s the Difference?

There is a slight difference between Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

SSDI is provided to a worker who has acquired an adequate number of work credits, and SSI disability benefits are given to low-income individuals who have not earned enough work credits or who have never worked. Without a work history, it is impossible to qualify to receive SSDI.

While some don’t distinguish between the two, SSDI and SSI are separate governmental programs.

While both are handled by the Social Security Administration, and a person’s medical eligibility for disability is determined the same way in both programs, there are very specific differences.

An In-Depth Look at SSI

The SSI program is strictly need-based. It factors in your assets and income to determine the benefits given. These benefits come from the general fund taxes, not the SSA trust fund.

SSI is referred to as a “means-tested program.” What this means is that it doesn’t depend on work history, just your financial need.

To meet the income requirements for SSI, you must own under $2,000 in assets ($3,000 for a couple) and have a very minimal income. If you are disabled and eligible based on the income requirements for SSI, you can also receive Medicaid.

Usually, if you qualify for SSI, you will also be eligible for food stamps. The amount you can receive depends on where you live and your monthly income. Your SSI benefits begin on the first of the month when you submit your application.

An In-Depth Look at SSDI

Payroll taxes are used to fund Social Security Disability Insurance. Someone who receives SSDI is considered to be “insured” because they have worked for a set number of years and contributed to the Social Security trust fund by paying FICA Social Security taxes.

To receive SSDI, an individual must be under the age of 65 and have earned a specific number of work credits. After receiving the SSDI benefits for two years, a disabled person is eligible to receive Medicare.

If you are eligible for SSDI, your children dependents and spouses can receive partial benefits too, which are called auxiliary benefits. It’s important to note, though, that only adults who are 18 years of age or older can receive these.

To receive benefits, you must go through a five-month waiting period. What this means is that the SSA will not pay you benefits for the initial five months after you are considered disabled. The amount of your monthly benefits after this waiting period depends on your earnings record.

The Main Benefits of Working with a Disability Attorney

As you can see, the rules and requirements for receiving SSI and SSDI benefits vary. It can be confusing to try and navigate through this process alone. This is why the services of a disability attorney can be so helpful.

However, if you aren’t sure you need legal representation for help with your benefits application, keep reading. Here you can learn why working with this legal expert is so beneficial.

Get a Preliminary Evaluation

Some medical conditions make it difficult to know with any level of certainty if you will qualify for disability benefits. A good way to know what your chances of success are is to receive a quick evaluation from an attorney.

During this evaluation, the lawyer will consider a few things. These include how the disability affects the following:

  • Your ability to work
  • Your ability to find new work
  • The severity of your condition

With this information, the lawyer can determine if Social Security is right for your situation.

You can also find information about your condition in the Blue Book. This provides a list of all the disabilities that are recognized by the SSA and how severe the condition must be to qualify to receive benefits.

Receive Assistance with Your Social Security Claim

If you decide to move forward and apply for Social Security benefits, you must fill out an application that is sent to the SSA. The application requires you to submit detailed information about your medical history and your income. Sometimes, these applications are complex, making them difficult to file.

It is important to make sure all the information included in the application is accurate. This will give you the highest chance of qualifying for benefits. While you can complete the claim on your own, hiring a disability attorney to help you will reduce the likelihood of mistakes.

Provide Updates to the SSA About Changes in Your Medical Records

Since so many Americans have disabilities, the SSA must remain up to date regarding the recipient’s conditions. This also helps to ensure the SSA continues to provide funds to those who have the highest level of need.

This means the SSA needs regular updates about your medical condition during and after you apply for benefits. Trying to handle this paperwork is often confusing. However, a disability attorney can ensure the proper paperwork is filed and provide ongoing communication with the SSA.

Representation in Court

In some situations, your disability application will be denied by the SSA. If this happens, you have the option to request a Social Security disability hearing.

This is considered an informal meeting. During it, an administrative law judge, or ALJ, will review your claim and ask questions to decide if they will overrule the decision that was previously made on your case.

It’s beneficial during these hearings to have a lawyer with you, who understands the legal system and how to fight for your right to receive benefits.

No Payment Required Unless You Win Benefits

A disability attorney doesn’t receive payment for their services unless you qualify for SSDI or SSI. For most people, this makes the entire process less stressful. It also provides confidence that your attorney is doing everything they can to help you get the benefits you deserve.

Finding the Right Social Security Attorney

If you are dealing with a Social Security dispute that you are unable to resolve alone, hiring an attorney can be beneficial, as explained above. However, if you have never had to hire a lawyer before, you may not know what to look for.

Here you can find some tips and helpful information to ensure you find the right lawyer for your situation.

Conduct a General Search

It’s a good idea to go online and search for attorneys in the local area. You can also visit the state bar associations to find licensed, practicing attorneys.

Make sure you use caution using this process, though. Just because you have found an attorney, doesn’t mean they are right for the job. You also must do a bit of research.

Get to Know the Options

Once you have found a few options, learn more about them. Some initial questions to ask include:

  • Do they have any experience with other people who have the same medical condition?
  • How many approvals have reached the hearing level?
  • What percentage of cases has the law firm or attorney won? Did these cases result in full benefits?

Take some time to learn as much as possible about the attorneys you have found in your local area. It is this information that will help you choose the right one for the job.

Finding and Hiring an Attorney for Social Security Benefits

As you can see, there is a distinct difference between SSI and SSDI benefits. Along with understanding what this difference is, it’s also necessary for you to understand there will be situations where having an attorney help you with the process is invaluable.

If you believe you deserve benefits, contact our legal team. We can evaluate your situation and help ensure you receive the benefits that you deserve. Our team has dealt with an array of cases and have a good success rate.

Being informed and knowing the proper steps to take to ensure the desired results are achieved is the best way to receive the benefits you need.