Government benefits can come from local, state, or federal government agencies. Government programs can offer assistance with securing affordable housing, getting jobs, paying bills, providing food, education, dealing with on-the-job injuries, a job loss, and getting medical care. A good resource to understand government programs is your county case worker. An on-line resource is Benefit Finder. These materials explain the federal Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs.
Social Security Benefits Programs for Adults
Social Security considers anyone 18 or older as an adult. Benefit programs for adults are available span from age 18 to full retirement, and include the Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefit programs.
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits
The Social Security Disability benefits program essentially began in 1956. The purpose of the legislation was to avoid financial catastrophe for those who were “totally” disabled. The benefits program has evolved over the years, but the important legal standard for today is that you need to prove that you will be unable to work full-time for a year or more due to medical problems. Social Security as an “all-or-nothing” proposition. It does not find partial disability or assign percentages as seen in VA or Workers’ Compensation benefits. Read more about Social Security Disability here.
Legal Terms to Know
Quarters of Coverage
Disability insurance, like other kinds of insurance, requires you to be covered. Normally, we make premium payments to continue insurance coverage, such as car or life insurance. In the case of Social Security Disability Insurance, you “payments” automatically come out of your paychecks from work. Your earnings from work allow up to four “quarters of coverage” per year. Based on your age, Social Security will define how many quarters of coverage you need to be “insured” for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. If you are insured, you still need to apply to be considered for these
Primary Insurance Amount, “PIA”
If you are insured and prove you are unable to work under the Social Security Disability standards, you will receive monthly payments based on your earnings history. This is also called your “primary insurance amount,” or PIA. You can find out your PIA from Social Security.
Substantial Gainful Activity, “SGA”
Disability Benefits pay you because you are unable to work. A frequent question our DisabilityLawyer.com lawyers answer is, “Does my work now keep me from applying?” It may. The most important consideration is whether you have been working the last three calendar months or so at “substantial gainful activity,” or SGA. Working now may preclude your application or impact your active claim when you work over three months in a row and earn more than a certain gross amount each month. This monthly earnings threshold can change each year. Here is a link to the SGA levels for each year. SGA levels are higher for those who are blind. If you would like to apply for Social Security Disability complete our Free Disability Evaluation.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program can pay disabled people monthly benefits regardless of their work history. SSI requires the same medical proof of disability as the Disability Insurance Program. First effective in 1974, it offers a minimum payment of monthly benefits based on financial need.
SSI applications are different from Disability Insurance benefits applications because you must show financial need to be eligible. SSI applications ask for a lot of detailed information about your income, resources, assets, and living arrangements. Assets included as yours by the SSI program include anything in your name that you can convert to cash, such as stocks and checking accounts that you have co-signed on.
The medical eligibility requirements of the SSI program parallel those of the Social Security Disability Insurance benefits program. In short, while the SSI program does not have minimum work requirements, it still requires you to still prove you are medically disabled. SSI also caps your monthly benefits at a relatively low amount.
If you are approved for both Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and SSI (a “concurrent claim”), DIB offsets SSI. In other words, SSI only pays minimum benefits that you do not otherwise receive from the DIB program.
Our DisabilityLawyer.com legal team usually counsels clients that financial need can change, for the better or worse. If an SSI application is technically rejected for lack of financial need, you should consider applying later if your financial situation that blocked SSI before changes for the worse later. Ultimately, Social Security will evaluate your
current financial situation top determine whether SSI benefits are possible, including the number of dependents in the household.