Being out of work and relying on limited resources can be a scary experience. Bills don’t stop coming just because you’re down on your luck. Individuals that aren’t working or don’t make a lot of money may wonder what options they have. In certain circumstances, people can be eligible for monthly cash assistance! But how is this possible? The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers a variety of cash assistance programs that can help you and your family stay afloat.
What to Know About SSDI and SSI
Did you know that Social Security was established way back in 1935? Since then, Social Security helps millions of Americans each year. There are two programs that the SSA provides that we are going to cover in this article. First, SSDI can support people that can no longer work and are disabled. Whereas, SSI was established to offer aid for those with low income who are elderly or disabled and don’t have enough work history to qualify for other benefits.
First, let’s discuss SSDI. If your disability becomes too much to manage and you have to quit working, SSDI might be able to help you out. This program provides monthly cash payments based on your average earnings throughout your working life. While someone is working, they are contributing to SSDI funds through their payroll taxes. In order to receive SSDI benefits, you must satisfy certain conditions regarding your work history and the severity of your disability.
In 2024, the average monthly payment an SSDI recipient gets is $1,537. Meanwhile, certain recipients can receive the maximum monthly payment of $3,822. Again, the amount you can get from SSDI is based on your personal work history. It’s important to note that these payments don’t account for inflation or cost-of-living adjustments, but they still offer valuable assistance when needed most.
Qualifying Criteria and Work History Requirements
To be eligible for SSDI benefits, you need to have sufficient work history. The length of time you were working and how much you’ve contributed through taxes factors in. While someone is working, they are earning work credits. The number of required credits is directly associated with how old you are when you stop working. Generally, younger workers need fewer credits than older workers. Additionally, some of these work credits must have been earned recently in order for you to qualify.
Navigating the SSDI Application Process
Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can seem like a difficult process. Many applicants can be denied at first, but eventually get approved after appealing their case.
Steps in the SSDI Application Process
- Gather Information: Collect all necessary personal, medical, and work history information before starting your application. This includes Social Security numbers for you and your family members, medical records, and employment records with job titles and descriptions.
- Apply Online or In-Person: You can submit an application online as ssa.gov, speak to someone over the phone at 1-800-772-1213, or visit a nearby SSA office.
- Submit Supporting Documents: Submit any required documents such as birth certificates or medical records along with your application. The SSA may request additional information if needed during the review process.
- Await Decision: It typically takes three to five months for an initial decision on your claim. If approved, payments usually begin six months from when disability onset occurred according to SSA guidelines.
Now let’s get into SSI! This program is intended to help a different part of the population than SSDI. Eligibility for SSI depends solely on meeting specific income guidelines without taking into account prior employment or earnings. Furthermore, this program is funded through general tax revenues, rather than payroll taxes.
With that being said, the following groups of people can be eligible for this assistance:
- Elderly: Seniors that are 65 years or older with limited income/resources can qualify for SSI.
- Blind: Individuals experiencing blindness without sufficient work history required for regular Social Security benefits, may qualify for SSI.
- Disabled: Disabled individuals that don’t have enough work history to qualify for regular benefits, may be able to get SSI for their financial needs.
Qualifying for SSI Benefits
To qualify for SSI, there are strict income guidelines and resource limits that must be met. In order to get SSI, your monthly income should not be greater than the federal benefit rate (FBR). This rate determines how much an SSI recipient can potentially get each month. In 2024, the FBR is $943 per month for one person. Meanwhile, for two people earning together it is $1,415. However, not all of your income will count towards the income limits. The SSA only factors in certain types of income when determining eligibility:
- Earned Income: either from an employer or from self employment
- Unearned Income: money received from other sources like unemployment benefits or gifts
- In-kind Support: food and shelter provided by someone else at no cost to you
- Deemed Income: part of another person’s income considered available to help meet your needs if they live with you.
Besides meeting the income requirements mentioned above, a person applying for SSI must also have limited resources such as cash savings and personal property. Resource limits in 2024 are set at $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for couples. However, some resources, like your main residence, are excluded from these limits.
Social Security Adjustments You Can Expect in the Future
It’s impossible to know the exact changes that will come at this time. However, possible adjustments may include another COLA increase based on inflation rates and changes made by Congress addressing funding concerns.
The Social Security Administration offers various programs that help different types of people! People that are no longer working due to a disability may be able to benefit from SSDI. Meanwhile, people that are struggling financially, and do not have an eligible work history may be able to get help from SSI.
SSDI is funded through payroll taxes. How much assistance someone can qualify for is actually influenced by how much they were previously making while working. In 2024, an SSDI recipient can receive up to $3,822 per month. Whereas, SSI isn’t dependent on work history. Instead, this program offers cash assistance based on an individual’s current need. Couples benefiting from SSI can get up to $1,415 per month and individuals up to $943! To stay in the know about future updates related to Social Security policies and programs, regularly check ssa.gov.