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Q: My SSDI application was denied. Does that mean I automatically qualify for Supplemental Security Income?


More importantly, you don’t even automatically apply for Supplemental Security Income when you get your SSDI denial notice. The programs are almost completely separate. They have different goals, different purposes, and different target populations. The one thing they have in common is that the Federal Social Security Administration has been assigned to run each program.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is, as the name indicates, a form of insurance. Like all other forms of insurance, the people who are covered pay for it; in this case, the payments are automatically withheld from the paychecks of all workers in the United States. In order to be eligible for SSDI, a person must have an extensive work history that shows gainful employment over many years. In addition, he must also be unable to work profitably, and this disability must be expected to last at least 12 months or to end in the person’s death.

The formula for calculating SSDI benefits is based on the lifetime earnings of the worker. There is no income test for SSDI: anyone can receive benefits regardless of wealth or (non-employment) sources of income. The average monthly payment for SSDI recipients was $1,132 at the start of 2013.

Supplemental Security Income

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a welfare program for the elderly, the disabled, or blind Americans. It was created in the mid-1970s to replace a number of state-based welfare programs. Even though the Social Security Administration was assigned the role to run the Supplemental Security Income program, SSI is not funded from the Social Security trust funds but from general federal revenues.

To be eligible for Supplemental Security Income benefits, an applicant must pass a means test to establish that he is desperately poor. A single individual with assets over $2,000 or a married couple with assets over $3,000 would not be eligible under the rules in force in 2013. Monthly benefit levels average about $525, and any other income may reduce the money SSI gives a recipient. Most recipients have no other source of income. In Pennsylvania, state funds are available for many SSI beneficiaries to supplement the low payments the federal program provides.

What They Have in Common: Disability Evaluations

Both Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income use the same set of standards from the Social Security Administration to determine whether the applicant is unable to work. Those standards are notoriously difficult to meet. Both SSDI and SSI deny benefits to about two-thirds of all first-time applicants.

Because the benefit rates for Supplemental Security Income are so low, it is usually much more desirable to qualify for SSDI than for SSI. If your application was denied for non-medical reasons—such as a limited work history or current earnings in excess of SSDI limits—and, of course, if your records agree with those the Social Security Administration is using—then you may not have any other option but to admit you are not currently eligible for SSDI.

However, if your application was denied because of medical reasons, there may be grounds to challenge the rejection in an appeal. Schmidt Kramer’s disability benefits lawyers in Harrisburg regularly assist our central Pennsylvania neighbors with their appeals from unfavorable decisions by Social Security caseworkers. We may be able to help you get the full benefits you deserve. To get a complete case review—or to get answers to your most pressing questions—fill out our online contact form, or call us at (717) 888-8888 toll-free. We will schedule a FREE conference with one of our Pennsylvania Social Security lawyers to see whether Schmidt Kramer is the right law firm to represent your interests.

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