Defintion of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) & Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

When a breadwinner becomes disabled, the family faces a difficult financial situation. This burden can be lessened by disability benefits, provided by the federal government as a critical safety net.

While disability might not enter the mind of most healthy people, the chance of you becoming disabled are far greater than you may imagine. Social Security Administration statistics show that three out of every 10 people will become disabled before they reach retirement age. The federal government provides disability benefits to those people who suffer from physical or mental disabilities that are so severe that they can't work.

We can connect you with a host of experienced lawyers who can help discuss the specifics of your case and guide you through the convoluted process of applying for Social Security disability benefits, whether they be SSDI or SSI benefits.

How do disability benefits help Americans?

The Social Security and Supplemental Security programs are the largest way the federal government helps out those who are disabled. In 2011, nearly 55 million Americans received some $727 billion from all of the Social Security Administration's various programs. Taken together, 20 percent of the federal budget is devoted to funding Social Security programs. Those who received monthly benefit checks include retirees, the disabled, and the underage survivors of deceased workers. Eight million of those 55 million people were receiving checks because they were disabled.

The SSA pays disability benefits through two programs: SSDI and SSI. Only those who are completely disabled can receive Social Security Disability; there are no benefits available for those who are partially disabled or who are disabled for a short-term period.

Social Security Disability Insurance - SSDI

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can help people who cannot work due to a medical condition that is anticipated to last at least a year.

To receive Social Security Disability Insurance, a worker must suffer from a mental or physical disability that is so severe that he or she cannot work. In addition, that worker must have worked in a job where he or she paid Social Security payroll taxes for an appropriate length of time.

To determine this amount of time, the Social Security Administration uses a "duration of work" test. For example, a 30-year-old person would need to have worked for 2 years before they would be eligible to receive SSDI benefits and a 50-year-old person would need to have worked for 7 years. SSDI benefit checks are based on one's prior income and how much one paid into the system while working.

The following criteria must also be met for a person to qualify for SSDI benefits: be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; be under age 65; have recent work history; have worked for a long enough period; and be considered disabled according to the Social Security Administration's definition.

Supplemental Security Income - SSI

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pays based on financial need and is intended for people who are aged, blind, and disabled, who have little or no income. SSI benefits are monthly payments to people who have low income and few resources.

SSI checks, which are drawn from general federal tax revenue, are generally smaller than SSDI checks and are intended to cover basic necessities such as shelter, food, and clothing.

What kinds of physical illnesses, mental illnesses and injuries could qualify me for federal disability benefits?

While disability determinations depend on the facts of your specific case, generally speaking, physical illnesses that could lead to a favorable SSD award include asthma, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, lupus, liver disease, Parkinson's, and various thyroid disorders.

Physical injuries that could lead to a disability award include on-the-job injuries, back injuries, amputations, herniated discs, paralysis, traumatic brain injury (TBI), slip & fall injuries, and chronic pain syndrome.

Mental illness that could lead to a favorable SSD determination include severe depression, schizophrenia, antisocial personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and bipolar disorder.