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Social Security Income Benefits vs. Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits


If you or a loved one suffers from a severe disability, there are federal programs available that have the potential to assist with the financial burden. Unfortunately, the majority of claims are denied upon the initial submittal. It is therefore essential to understand the application criteria for individual assistance programs before undertaking such an onerous process. An attorney experienced in Social Security benefit programs can help.

Definition of a Disability 

Social Security only pays benefits for permanent, total disabilities. The disability must:

  • Prevent an individual from doing the work done previously;
  • Impede one’s ability to adapt to other types of work;
  • Have lasted or be expected to last at least one year or to result in death.

Key Distinctions Between SSI and SSDI

The Social Security Administration is a huge organization built as a safety net for Americans with various needs. Two of the arms of this organization provide benefits to individuals with disabilities: Social Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). However, these programs are very distinct entities, with very different eligibility requirements. Whereas SSI is available to those who can demonstrate economic need, SSDI is only available to those who have paid sufficient amounts in Social Security taxes over the years. 


SSI benefits are available to individuals of any age who are disabled and have limited financial resources.

Children with disabilities such as HIV, total blindness or deafness, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, and certain other conditions may qualify for these benefits. However, there are certain criteria that must be met:

  • There are strict earning limits (roughly $1,170 per month, but the amount changes every year.)
  • The child must have severe functional limitations due to a mental or physical condition that has lasted or is anticipated to last at least one year or is expected to result in death.

For adults aged 18 and older, financial assistance is possible for a number of disabling conditions ranging from mental disorders to an array of diseases and injuries.

These benefits are also obtainable for persons aged 65 and older who are not disabled, but who fit within specified financial parameters.


On the other hand, SSD pays out benefits to individuals and family members based on the amount of Social Security taxes collected by that person over time. Social Security work credits are earned based on a person’s annual income. Those credits translate to specific dollar amounts. The number of credits one needs to qualify for SSD benefits is based on one’s age at the time of the disability, with some of those credits having been earned in at least half of the previous 10 years.

Filing the Right Claim with the Right Documentation 

The complexities of filing a disability claim cannot be overstated. Instead of trying to muddle through the process on your own, contact the experienced disability attorneys at Barbas, Nunez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian in Tampa. Our team knows how to maneuver through the bureaucratic requirements in order to get our clients the best outcome possible. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.

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