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SSDI and SSI compared for New Jersey residents

New Jersey residents seeking disability benefits might be overwhelmed by the requirements for the various programs available to them. A key point of confusion lies between two federal disability programs -- Supplemental Security Income and Social Security disability insurance. What's the difference between the two?

The programs differ in terms of who qualifies, how the Social Security Administration evaluates applications for each program, and how each program is financed.

SSI is available for qualified disabled adults, low-income individuals at least 65 years old and disabled children. SSI targets very low-income people who do not possess substantial assets.

SSDI benefits are available to disabled workers, their children and widowers or widows and adults disabled since childhood who have never worked.

SSI and SSDI use the same criteria to establish that a potential beneficiary is disabled and disability includes blindness.

SSI benefits are not tied to previous income but require that an applicant have less than $2,000 in resources, or $3,000 for a couple, to qualify. Resources include personal property, money in bank accounts and other assets but usually one car and an applicant's owned residence are not counted. The SSA also looks closely at income in determining whether an applicant qualifies for SSI.

SSDI benefits are based on an applicant's work record and are available to an individual who suffers from a disorder or illness that will last at least one year or result in death and which prevents the applicant from working.

Readers of this blog will remember a recent post regarding the Compassionate Allowance list, which contains illnesses and disorders that have been effectively pre-approved for benefits. Applicants suffering from conditions on the list tend to get benefits more quickly.

SSI is funded from the federal general fund and SSDI receives funding from Social Security taxes paid by self-employed people, workers and employers.

The two programs operate independently and have done so since each was started. The application process for each of these programs requires significant documentation and can be quite complex.

Source: AARP, "What's the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?," Stan Hinden, AARP Bulletin, June 13, 2012

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