There are a variety of ways in which the federal government provides financial assistance to people who are unable to work — whether they’re blind, of retirement age, or they have physical and/or cognitive challenges. If you or a family member has suffered long-term injuries, you’ll likely hear numerous terms and acronyms for these programs. Many of them sound alike, and it can get very confusing. For example, Social Security, SSI, and SSDI are three different avenues of government assistance, but they look and sound very similar. Below, we break down the benefits each provides, and the requirements one must meet to qualify.
What: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based supplement program that provides certain individuals with cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.
Who: Beneficiaries of SSI include the elderly, blind, and those with disabilities. Adults are considered disabled if they have a long-term physical and/or mental condition that keeps them from working.
How: The amount of SSI a person receives depends on his or her income and living arrangements. Because settlements and jury awards are considered income, SSI beneficiaries must plan carefully if they are going to receive a recovery from a personal injury lawsuit. Download the full guide to SSI here.
What: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays benefits to individuals who cannot work because of a medical condition. In some cases, this program also provides financial assistance to the family members of those individuals.
Who: To qualify as an SSDI beneficiary, a person must have worked in a job covered by Social Security. Then, he or she must have developed a “disability” as defined by the Social Security Administration (the full list is here). Only people who are unable to work for a year or more because of their condition will generally qualify for SSDI.
How: SSDI benefits usually continue until a person is able to work again on a regular basis. For those who are able to transition back to work, special rules called “work incentives” provide continued benefits and health care coverage.
What: The name “Social Security” is a catch-all for numerous things, but it commonly refers to the government benefits a person may receive after reaching a certain age. For those who qualify, this federal government program provides a source of monthly income for them and their legal dependents.
Who: Individuals who have reached the age of 62. Ex-spouses, widows, and widowers may also receive benefits.
How: An individual’s monthly Social Security benefit amount is based on his or her highest 35 years of earnings. For those who do not have 35 years of earnings, their monthly benefits will be lower. A full retirement checklist is available here.
We hope this guide helps to clarify the differences between these federal government programs, and who may qualify for what. If you have any questions about your current qualifications and how a lawsuit settlement may affect these, feel free to reach out to us.
About John Bair
John Bair has guided thousands of plaintiffs through the settlement process as co-founder of Milestone Consulting, LLC, a broad-based settlement planning and management firm. Milestone’s approach is comprehensive and future-focused. John’s team has guided thousands of clients by taking the time to understand the complexities of each case. They assess the best outcome and find the path that enables each client to manage their many needs. Read more about Milestone Consulting at http://milestoneseventh.com/.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).