Social Security Disability Insurance: Are You Covered?

Social Security Disability Insurance: Are You Covered?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are similar. So similar, in fact, that many people don’t know which benefits they receive every month. Below, we’ll explain how to tell if you have Social Security disability insurance coverage or not.



How Can You Tell If You’re Getting SSDI or SSI Benefits?

The main difference between the two programs is that:

  • SSDI is available to workers who pay Social Security disability insurance premiums through FICA taxes withheld from every paycheck.
  • SSI is available to low-income individuals without sufficient work credits or disability insurance coverage. Therefore, they aren’t eligible for Social Security disability insurance benefits based on their own work record.

But even knowing that, it can still be difficult to tell which program’s paying you money each month. After all, you fill out the same application paperwork, regardless. Once the Social Security Administration (SSA) gets your application, the agency reviews it for both programs’ eligibility requirements. If you meet all medical requirements and have disability insurance coverage, you may get approved for SSDI. If you meet all medical requirements but don’t have Social Security disability insurance, then you may qualify for SSI instead.

Who Pays for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income?

There are distinct differences between the two benefits programs that you should know about, including who pays for them and how much:

  • SSDI recipients have the potential to get more money than SSI beneficiaries do each month. That’s because SSDI benefits are based on your payroll contribution to Social Security’s disability insurance program. So if you’ve paid enough in disability insurance premiums to qualify for SSDI, you have the potential to earn more.
  • SSI benefits are based on the annual Federal Benefit Rate and are paid from a completely different fund. (In 2020, the maximum SSI payment is $783 a month. Couples can receive a maximum of $1,175 per month in SSI.) These benefits are paid for out of the general tax fund, not the Social Security disability insurance program. If you’re still not sure which benefits you have or how to qualify (since the Social Security Administration manages payments for both programs), we’ll explain more below.

How to Tell If You Have Social Security Disability Insurance Coverage Before You Apply for Benefits

  1. Work history — Have you worked 5 in the last 10 years and paid disability insurance premiums through your FICA taxes? If so, you likely qualify for SSDI, but there are always some exceptions. Your current age at the time you become disabled determines how many years you must work in order to qualify for SSDI benefits. The SSA’s eligibility rules say that anyone over age 35 must have worked 5 in the last 10 years to qualify for SSDI. That’s because your disability insurance coverage ends exactly five years after the date you stop working and paying FICA taxes. If you wait until your disability insurance coverage lapses to apply for benefits, you can’t get approved for SSDI. If that happens but you still meet all the medical requirements for disability, the SSA may approve your claim for SSI benefits instead.
  2. Disability insurance premiums you pay for with FICA taxes — The “Federal Insurance Contributions Act” taxes that come out of every paycheck cover your disability insurance premiums, Social Security retirement, and Medicare benefits. In order to qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have FICA taxes withheld from every paycheck and apply for disability insurance benefits before your coverage runs out. But if you’re a federal employee or have an employer-provided pension, you might not pay FICA taxes. Look for any amount listed in Box 4 on last year’s W-2. You may be eligible for SSDI benefits if you paid regular disability insurance premiums in the last five years through FICA taxes.
  3. Work credits — The SSA uses your yearly earnings to determine your Social Security work credits. You can earn a maximum of four work credits every year, and you’ll need 40 total to qualify for Social Security disability insurance benefits. In addition to those 40 work credits required for disability insurance benefits, you must earn 20 within the past decade to meet the program’s eligibility rules.

If you’ve worked close to 5 in the last 10 years (4+ years), you must earn more credits to qualify for disability insurance benefits. In 2020, you get one credit for every $1,410 you earn in wages.

You May Qualify for Legal Assistance

Still have questions about how federal disability insurance works? SSDI and SSI are notoriously complex programs, and only one pays disability insurance benefits. Luckily, you can sign up for a free phone call from a Social Security attorney in your area. People who file their claims with help from a lawyer are 2x more likely to get approved for benefits the first time they apply. If a lawyer can’t get your claim approved, you pay $0 for legal assistance. And if you do win, then you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.

Ready to see if you may qualify for disability benefits? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!

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