Important: We updated this article in August 2023 to make sure all info below is both current and correct. Making ends meet without a job can be extremely difficult, even if you get Social Security disability insurance benefits (SSDI). Those without enough work history to qualify for SSDI may still apply for monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI). According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), about 9% of applicants aged 18-64 in 2022 qualified for both SSI and SSDI benefits. While this number may seem small, it represents 1,076,000 Americans. Most people cannot qualify for benefits from both programs. But for a select few, dual enrollment can be extremely helpful.
Even though the SSA manages both programs, they have different eligibility requirements and average monthly payments. SSI benefits are need-based, while SSDI is determined by how many work credits you’ve earned within your work history. When you apply for both SSI and SSDI, your health issues must meet the SSA’s definition of disabled in order to qualify. That said, each program uses different non-medical eligibility rules to approve or deny each request for monthly benefits. Applying for both SSI and SSDI is called a “concurrent claim” — and getting benefits may be simpler than you think.
How to Apply for Concurrent SSI and SSDI Benefits
Applying for concurrent benefits is easy, and there’s no special claim or application form you must submit to the SSA. You can either apply for SSI or SSDI on your own, or get expert help filing your claim. Then, the SSA reviews your claim to determine whether your current monthly income and assets qualify you for concurrent benefits. All you can do while the SSA performs their reviews is wait to hear a decision. If you have a lawyer, they can request claim status updates on your behalf.
Three Steps to Qualify for Both SSI and SSDI Monthly Benefits
Step 1: Your Condition Must Meet The SSA’s Approved Definition of a “Disability”
To qualify for SSDI, here are the core medical eligibility requirements:
- You must have a diagnosed medical condition that renders you unable to work for at least 12 months. A terminal illness is also acceptable for meeting this requirement. If your diagnosis is on the SSA’s compassionate allowances (CAL) list, then you’ll automatically qualify as “disabled.”
- You must see your doctor regularly and follow his or her prescribed treatments for your health issues. This includes things such as routine check-ups, taking medications as directed, attending physical therapy sessions, etc. as applicable.
Since the SSA defines “disability” the same way for both SSI and SSDI programs, they use the same medical eligibility rules.
Step 2: You Must Fall Under Current SSDI and SSI Monthly Income Limits.
To qualify for SSI and SSDI in 2023, your total monthly income must be less than $1,470. For SSDI, the agency only counts your personal income towards that max limit. But if you apply for SSI, it counts how much money everyone who’s living in your home makes.
If you’re a blind person who applies for SSDI who earns more than $2,460 per month, you won’t qualify. Applicants who aren’t blind must earn less than $1,470 total per month to qualify for benefits. This number can vary from state to state, and knowing which income limits apply to you may be complicated. If you’re working and have a spouse or relative adding to your income, you won’t qualify for both SSI and SSDI. But if your monthly income and financial assets added together are less than $1,470, then you may qualify for SSI and SSDI.
Step 3: You Must Have Enough Recent Work Credits to Qualify for SSDI.
The second factor in getting both SSI and SSDI is your work history before your health problems began. You must have worked five of the last 10 years and paid Social Security payroll taxes to qualify for SSDI. (Social Security work credits can be confusing – here’s a quick look at how they’re earned and why you need them.) This second step gets many benefit claims denied. Why? Because the SSA rejects SSDI benefits for anyone who hasn’t worked for 60 months.
But let’s say you already have SSDI and want to get SSI payments as well. First, know that SSA counts your SSDI payments towards your SSI income limits. This makes many people who apply for both benefits not qualify, since their SSDI payment is more than $1,470.
Finally, depending on which state you live in, the SSA deducts your Medicaid or Medicare premium from your concurrent benefits. So, your monthly payment will be the money you keep after they take out medical insurance costs.
Isn’t There Some Way to Increase My Combined Monthly SSI and SSDI Benefits?
The short answer is: yes. When you qualify for concurrent benefits, your monthly SSI and SSDI payments often won’t be more than $914 total. The SSA uses a complex system of calculations to determine how much you’ll receive in monthly SSI and SSDI benefits. Some factors that can raise or lower your concurrent benefits amount include:
- State supplements to federal SSI payments. The only U.S. states and territories that don’t supplement federal SSI benefits are Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota, West Virginia, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
- Eligible spouses can increase your combined SSI and SSDI payments. In 2023, the maximum monthly SSI benefit for couples who qualify is $1,371.
- Other income and financial resources that don’t count towards your SSI claim’s monthly limits. If you own one car and uses it for daily travel, it doesn’t go towards your $2,000 maximum in total resources. (Couples can have $3,000 in total assets or resources – anything you can sell or exchange for cash automatically counts.) Other assets that don’t impact payments may include your home, burial plots, and life insurance policies valued below $1,500. For a full list of income and asset limit exceptions, visit the SSA’s website.
Will My Medical Coverage Change If I Qualify for Both SSI and SSDI?
If you qualify for concurrent benefits, you may start Medicare coverage two years after your SSDI benefits begin. The SSA automatically enrolls all people on SSI into Medicaid as soon as their payments start. However, Medicare may be a better program for your health care needs. More doctors accept Medicare (82.4%, on average) than Medicaid (54.1%) in many states. Medicaid appointment wait times can be 26 days or longer.
How to Get Free Expert Claim Help That Boosts Your Odds
Concurrent enrollment’s confusing rules seem to apply differently for each person. So, many people find the the application process difficult. You may find it extremely helpful to speak with a Social Security attorney near you free of charge. Attorneys charge nothing up front for expert claim help.
Regardless of your current circumstances or claim status, remember — there are always exceptions. Federal benefit program rules change constantly, making getting through the system more difficult. Having a lawyer file your claim makes you nearly 3x more likely to get benefits right away.
Want free expert claim help without leaving your home? Click the button below to start your free online benefits quiz now:
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.