The Social Security Administration is responsible for several programs that provide benefits to individuals who cannot work because of a disability. As Denver disability lawyers, we are often asked about the eligibility requirements for two of these programs: Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This article provides a brief overview of this complicated area of the law.
Eligibility requirements common to both programs
Both federal disability benefits programs – SSI and SSDI – require the following:
1. A completed application. There are two separate application forms. You may apply in person or over the phone by calling the Social Security Administration’s toll free number (1-800-772-1213) and scheduling an appointment. You may apply for SSDI (but not SSI) benefits online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability.
2. Proof of citizenship or alien status.
3. Proof that you are “disabled,” as that term is defined in the Social Security regulations. You are “disabled” if you have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that is so severe it prevents you from doing your previous work and, considering your age, education, and work experience, prevents you from doing any other work that exists in the national or local economy.
Eligibility requirements unique to SSDI
The federal Social Security Disability Insurance program operates much like a private Colorado disability insurance policy. The Social Security taxes that are deducted from your paycheck are similar to the premiums you would pay on an insurance policy. In order to have “insured” status and, thus, be eligible to receive Colorado disability benefits, you must have paid Social Security taxes long enough and recently enough to meet the program requirements (generally, 40 quarters of work and disability beginning within 5 years of the qualifying work). If your disability causes you to stop working and, therefore, stop paying Social Security taxes, then your insured status will lapse, just as private Colorado disability coverage would lapse if you stopped paying the premiums on the policy.
Eligibility requirements unique to SSI
If you have not worked recently enough or long enough to qualify for Colorado Social Security disability insurance benefits, but you presently are unable to work because of a disability, you may be entitled to receive Colorado Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits. SSI is a federal welfare program that provides benefits to disabled persons with limited income and assets, regardless of work history. The income limit is based on the monthly SSI benefit amount after several different kinds and amounts of earned and unearned are excluded; the asset limit is $2,000 per individual and $3,000 per couple, excluding a home and one car, if the car is used for work or to obtain medical treatment. If you meet the low income and asset requirements, then you are eligible to receive SSI benefits, even if you have not worked in some time or have never worked. In this regard, even children are eligible to receive SSI.
Your Denver disability lawyer can help you make sense of the eligibility rules
You may be eligible for Colorado Social Security Disability Insurance benefits or Colorado Supplemental Security Income, or some combination of the two, but the rules and regulations governing eligibility are so complicated that it can be difficult to know which path to take. An experienced Denver disability lawyer can help guide the way. At Radosevich & Dixon, Social Security disability is all we do. We know Denver disability law, and we know from experience how the law is applied in real-life situations. We can analyze the facts of your case and help you complete the application paperwork for one or both programs, as appropriate. If you would like to talk with us, please complete the Claim Evaluation form on the right side of this page, or contact us directly by phone or email.