Assisting Clients Across California Since 1993

Understanding SSDI and SSI eligibility

California residents who are suffering from the effects of a long-term or chronic illness, injury or accident that has left them disabled and unable to work may not be aware that there are benefits that they may be eligible to receive through federal and state government sources. Unlike worker’s compensation, the injury or illness does not have to be related to work for them to qualify.

There are two programs run by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provide benefits for those who are disabled or blind, but each is funded differently and is designed for groups with different needs.

Comparison of SSDI and SSI

The Social Security Disability Insurance Program (SSDI) provides disability benefits to workers based on their contributions to the Social Security trust fund. The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) mandates that a percentage of employees’ earnings be withheld and placed in this fund, which then can be used for SSDI payments to disabled workers or their dependents based on their earning record.

The Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI) gives cash assistance payments to those who are elderly, blind or disabled, including children, who have limited income or financial resources. In California, the SSI is funded not only through federal tax revenues but also state funding, which includes medical assistance through Medi-Cal, supplemental nutritional assistance through SNAP and additional support services.

Eligibility requirements

Although the SSDI and SSI have different eligibility requirements, it is possible to receive benefits from both sources or, if you are ineligible for one, to apply for the other. In order to qualify for either, you must demonstrate that you have a disability that prevents you from engaging in any substantial gainful activity that has either lasted at least 12 months, or is expected to result in death.

SSDI is available only to those who have made enough contributions to the Social Security system to qualify. Generally, the older the applicant, the more work credits that are required to qualify for benefits. Those who do not have enough work credits to apply for the SSDI may qualify for the SSI program.

The qualify for SSI, the applicant must pass a means test that assesses the applicant’s or their family’s income and assets. Assets not including the family home or car must not exceed $2,000 for individuals or $3,000 for married couples.

For Sacramento residents who need financial assistance due to their disability, it is important to have a skilled attorney familiar with the complexities of Social Security regulations and procedures who will advocate for your needs.