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Social Security Disability vs. SSI

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you must be “insured” just like you had paid premiums into a private insurance policy, and you must be insured at the time your disability began.  An individual is insured if he/she has paid into the Social Security System recently enough and over a long enough period of time to have reached “disability insured status.”  This insured status, like that under a private policy, eventually expires leaving a claimant without coverage.  So how much is needed? Generally, a person over 31 years old is required to have paid into the system 20 of the last 40 calendar quarters before becoming disabled (often stated as 5 of the last 10 years).  If the claimant has maintained steady employment, they will remain “insured” for roughly 5 years after stopping work.  If the claimant can establish that his/her disability began during the insured status period, they will usually be entitled to disability benefits.


SSI however, is not related to how much or how long an individual has paid into the Social Security System.  In fact, it is available to those who have never paid into the system at all.  SSI is a federal welfare program.  It is available to the disabled, blind, and those over 65 whose income and assets fall below the limits allowed by the SSI program.  The claimant must be a United States citizen or fall into one of the recognized exceptions to the citizenship rule.  It is possible for claimants to receive both Social Security Disability and SSI simultaneously if the Disability benefits are low enough.