Making ends meet with a disability can be extremely difficult, even if you’re receiving Social Security disability insurance benefits (SSDI). Other disabled Americans 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 4% of claimants in 2020 were eligible for both SSI and SSDI benefits. While this number may seem small, that 4% represents 2,682,000 Americans. Most applicants aren’t eligible for benefits from both programs, but for a select few, dual enrollment can be extremely beneficial.
Even though the SSA administers 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 employment history. When you’re applying for both SSI and SSDI, your disability condition must meet the SSA’s definition in order to qualify. That said, each program uses different non-medical eligibility requirements to approve or deny each applicant’s request for monthly disability benefits. Applying for both SSI and SSDI is called a “concurrent claim” — and getting approved 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 a legal professional’s help filing your claim. Then, the SSA evaluates your claim to determine whether your current monthly income and assets qualify you for concurrent benefits. All you can do while the SSA’s claim examiners perform their reviews is wait to hear the agency’s determination decision. If you do have legal representation, your disability advocate or attorney 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 disabled to the point that you cannot work for at least 12 months. An expected prognosis of death is also suitable for meeting this requirement. If your diagnosis is on the SSA’s compassionate allowances (CAL) list, you’ll automatically qualify as “disabled.”
- You must follow your doctor’s recommended treatment regimen for your condition, including routine check-up visits, taking prescribed medications, attending physical therapy sessions, etc. as applicable.
Since the SSA defines “disability” the same way for both SSI and SSDI programs, the medical eligibility requirements are identical.
Step 2: You Must Fall Under Current SSI Monthly Income Limits
To qualify for SSI in 2022, your monthly income must be less than $1,350. If you’re a blind person applying for SSDI who currently earns more than $2,260/month, you won’t qualify. Non-blind applicants must earn less than $1,350 total per month to qualify for benefits. This number can vary from state to state, and figuring out which income limits apply to you may be complicated. If you’re working and have a spouse or relative contributing to household income, you won’t qualify for SSI and SSDI. Still, if your monthly income and financial assets combined are less than $1,350, you may qualify for SSI and SSDI.
Step 3: You Must Have Sufficient Recent Employment History to Qualify for SSDI
The second factor in qualifying for both SSI and SSDI is based on your pre-disability employment history. You must have worked five of the last 10 years and had Social Security taxes withheld 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 qualifying step gets many claims denied, because the SSA counts your SSDI income towards determining your SSI eligibility. Finally, depending on which state you live in, your Medicaid or Medicare premium is deducted from your concurrent benefits. So, your monthly benefit check will reflect that Medicaid or Medicare deduction amount.
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 combined SSI and SSDI payments usually won’t be more than $1,555 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 household’s combined SSI and SSDI payments. In 2022, the maximum monthly SSI benefit for eligible couples is $1,261.
- Other uncounted income and financial resources that don’t count towards determining your SSI claim’s eligibility. If your household owns one car and uses it for transportation, it doesn’t go towards your $2,000 maximum in countable resources. (Couples can have $3,000 in countable 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 individual 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’re eligible for concurrent benefits, you may qualify for Medicare coverage two years after your SSDI claim’s initially approved. All SSI beneficiaries are automatically enrolled in Medicaid, but Medicare may be a better program for managing your healthcare needs. More doctors accept Medicare than Medicaid in many states, and Medicaid appointment wait times can be 24 days or longer.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Concurrent enrollment’s confusing rules which seem to apply differently for each claimant’s unique circumstances can make the application process overwhelming. You may find it extremely beneficial to speak with a Social Security attorney or disability advocate in your area. An experienced legal professional can help guide you through your own application process.
Regardless of your current circumstances or Social Security disability claim status, remember — there are always exceptions. The complex laws surrounding Social Security disability assistance programs are constantly evolving and make navigating the system more difficult. Having a lawyer file your claim makes you nearly 3x more likely to get benefits on your first try.
To see if you may qualify for legal assistance, complete your free disability benefits evaluation by clicking the button below today.
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.