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Supplemental Security Income / Social Security Disability: FAQ's

Q. What is the difference between SSDI (or SSD) and SSI?

Social Security Disability (SSDI or SSD) is available to individuals who have accumulated sufficient "work credits" to qualify for Social Security while Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a benefit provided to lower income individuals who have not worked or have not worked enough to qualify for SSDI. The medial eligibility requirement for both programs is the same.

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Q. How do I know if I am eligible for SSDI?

In order to obtain SSDI you must prove that you have a disability that qualifies under the Social Security Administration guidelines and you must have worked long enough and recently enough (earning work credits) to qualify for disability benefits.

According to the Social Security Administration, work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year. In 2016, you would have earned one credit for each $1,260 of wages or self-employment income. Therefore, if you earned $5,040 in 2016 you would have earned your four credits for the year.   Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. This means you would have worked at least 5 of the last 10 years.  However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

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Q. When should I apply for SSDI?

If you earned sufficient credits from past work and are no longer able to work as a result of a disability you can apply for SSDI.  You must be out of work for one year, or expected to be out of work for at least one year, to qualify.

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Q. How much can I receive in benefits?

The amount of your monthly disability benefit is based on your lifetime average earnings covered by Social Security.  You can turn to the Social Security Administration Website ( to get your Social Security statement online.

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Q. How do I apply for benefits?

You can apply directly at a local Social Security office; you can apply online at or you can have an attorney apply on your behalf.

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Q. Does everyone get turned down the first time?

No. The Social Security Administration reviews your application and medical records and determines whether there is enough evidence to support a claim of disability. They may send you for an evaluation with one of their doctors. Some individuals are approved on the initial application.

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Q. What do I have to prove in order to obtain benefits and what factors are considered?

You can prove entitlement by establishing that you have a condition that meets a disability listing. The criteria for this vary depending on your specific condition. If your condition does not meet a listing, you must establish that a person at your age, with your educational background and work history would be unable to perform not only the job(s) you held in the past, but any job in the marketplace; that may depend on what transferrable skills you have. Your functional abilities, age, level of education and training are the major factors the SSA considers in addition to the nature and severity of your disability.

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Q. If I am denied benefits on my initial application, what are my options?

If you receive a letter denying you benefits, you will have 60 days to file an appeal of that decision and request a hearing before a Social Security Judge. It may take up to two years before you obtain a hearing.

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Q. Can I file a new application if I am denied benefits or lose on appeal?

You can file a completely new application which starts the process over; that means that you will not receive benefits for the time spent waiting for a decision in your first application.

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Q. If I am awarded SSDI are my benefits affected by Workers Compensation or disability income?

Yes, the amount of Workers Compensation you receive (whether as direct payments or as a result of a settlement) and "public disability benefits" may reduce your Social Security benefits. Public disability benefits may be those paid by a federal, state, or local government and are for disabling medical conditions that are not job-related.

If you receive workers' compensation or public disability benefits and you receive Social Security disability benefits, the total amount of these benefits can’t exceed 80 percent of your average current earnings before you became disabled.

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Michael G. Dryden
Marianne Henry Saylor
Scott M. Orloff
Robert D. Steinberg