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Confused About Social Security Benefits? You’re Not Alone

The term ‘Social Security’ is a familiar phrase to all Americans, one that’s as well known as “The White House,” or “Disney World.” The Social Security Administration (SSA) is perhaps the best known United States federal agency, after all – nearly all of us know someone who collects some form of benefits through the Social Security Administration (mostly likely in the form of retirement benefits). What you may not know is that the SSA runs a variety of programs designed to help people who are disabled and can no longer work due to their disability.

You’re not alone if you find yourself confused or overwhelmed when applying for Social Security disability benefits

If you’re thinking about filing for Social Security disability benefits, having a basic understanding of the different types of programs available is a helpful first step in understanding your options.

In 2013 alone, the Social Security Administration assisted approximately 11 million disabled workers and dependents of disabled workers. Many of us know someone who has applied for Social Security Disability Benefits, but what exactly does that mean? The Social Security Administration runs two important programs which have specific requirements that you should be familiar with to see if you might qualify for assistance. At Grimes Teich and Anderson LLP, we’re here to help you navigate all the bureaucracy and red tape that can come with applying for benefits.

To get you started, let’s discuss the differences between Social Security’s Disability Benefits program and the Social Security Supplemental Security Income program.

The Social Security Administration administers two disability programs – Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

The SSDI program is also referred to as Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) or Title II benefits because the program is governed by Title 2 of the Social Security Disability Act. It is designed to provide both income and healthcare coverage (through the Medicare program) to individuals who have been gainfully employed and paid into the system with Social Security (FICA) taxes that are normally taken out of your paychecks. You must have worked for a certain number of years in a job where you paid social security taxes and earned the required number of work credits and “quarters” of coverage. Eligibility for the program is also dependent on your age at the time you become disabled, when you last worked and contributed to the system through FICA taxes, and the length of time you last worked before becoming disabled. The SSDI program is not an income based program, and the individual’s financial circumstances are not considered when determining eligibility. In general, a person who has worked approximately five out of the last ten years will more than likely be eligible to apply for Social Security Disability benefits.

Unlike the SSDI program, the Supplemental Security Income program (SSI) is an income and needs based program for disabled people who have never worked or who have not earned or worked enough to qualify for the Social Security Disability program. SSI is also referred to as Title XVI benefits because it is governed by Title 16 of the Social Security Disability Act. While it was primarily designed for individuals who are not eligible for SSDI benefits (individuals who have not earned enough quarters of coverage, do not have a sufficient work record, never paid into the Social Security system through their taxes, or are children who have never worked), there are circumstances in which one can be eligible for both SSDI and SSI income and I will try to cover that topic in a future post.

To be eligible for SSI, the Social Security Administration will consider what you earn and what you own

Income considered by the SSA includes money earned from work as well as money you receive from other sources such as other Social Security benefits, workers compensation, unemployment benefits, VA benefits, and money you receive from family and friends. They will also consider free food or shelter that you receive. The amount of income you receive will effect whether are not you are eligible for SSI benefits and the amount of SSI benefits for which you may be eligible. With respect to what you own, the current 2014 asset limit is $2,000.00 for an individual and $3,000.00 for a couple. The Social Security Administration will look at things such as land, vehicles, and personal property owned by an individual. Calculating assets and income and determining eligibility for SSI income can be complicated and is dependent on several factors not outlined in this article.

If you have any questions regarding Social Security Disability, or you think your disability may qualify you for benefits, contact the experienced Social Security Disability attorneys at Grimes Teich and Anderson LLP, for a free consultation today. 800-533-6845.

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