Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income
Administers Two Disability Programs,
Both Include Incentives to Work
The Social Security
Administration (SSA) pays cash benefits to people whom, due
to a physical or mental disability that is expected to last
more than a year or result in death, are unable to earn a substantial
For 2002, earnings
of more than $780 per month or more than $1,300 per month
for individuals who are blind are considered substantial earnings.
These amounts are adjusted each year based on increases in
national average wages.
- SSA administers
two disability programs, Social Security Disability Insurance
and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
disability benefits are an earned benefit. Workers pay
Social Security taxes into the system and earn work credits
based on how much they earn. If a person becomes disabled
they may be eligible to receive benefits based on their earnings.
The spouse and
dependent children of a disability beneficiary may also
disability pays an average monthly benefit of $817 to approximately
5.4 million workers with disabilities. In addition, some
1.7 million members of their families receive monthly benefits.
SSI is a federal
program that makes monthly payments to people with disabilities
who have limited income and assets. The program is administered
by the Social Security Administration, but the payments are
financed by the general revenue funds, not from Social Security
is based on financial need. SSI eligibility depends on
what people own and how much income they have. Income
includes items such as wages, Social Security benefits
and pensions. Income also includes non-cash items received,
such as food, clothing or shelter. People who have never
worked or have not worked long enough to qualify for Social
Security benefits may be eligible for SSI. People also
may be eligible for both Social Security and SSI benefits.
There are no
benefit provisions for a spouse and dependent children.
3.8 million adults with disabilities (age 18 to 64) receive
SSI. Many of these SSI beneficiaries also receive Social
is critically important to people with disabilities. The Social
Security disability and SSI disability programs both offer health
is the Federal health insurance plan. People who receive Social
Security disability benefits for 24 months are eligible for
is a state health benefit for people who have limited income
and assets. Most SSI disability beneficiaries are eligible
for Medicaid, which is administered by the states.
There are special
rules, called work incentives, which make it possible for Social
Security and SSI disability beneficiaries to work and still
receive monthly payments and Medicare or Medicaid.
disability beneficiaries may attempt to work during a
trial work period. While working, they have extended eligibility
for monetary benefits and may continue to receive Medicare.
A Trial Work
Period (TWP) allows individuals to test their ability
to work for at least nine months. During the TWP, beneficiaries
receive full Social Security disability benefits regardless
of the amount they earn. After completion of nine trial
work months, SSA determines if a person has substantial
earnings. If earnings are not substantial, full benefits
generally continue. If earnings are more than the substantial
level, cash benefits are normally suspended while Medicare
For at least
three years after a TWP, Social Security disability beneficiaries
may receive a monetary benefit for any month that earnings
are below the substantial earnings level. Benefits may
resume without a new application.
may continue for at least eight years and six months after
beneficiaries go to work, even if they no longer receive
a monetary benefit.
beneficiaries continue to receive payments and Medicaid
benefits when they return to work.
Working SSI disability
beneficiaries may continue to receive payments even if their
earnings are more than the substantial level. Other income
combined with earnings may cause payments to end if total
income exceeds SSI eligibility levels.
may continue for SSI beneficiaries who earn more than the
substantial level. Medicaid continues even if a person no
longer receives a monetary benefit, as long as they depend
on Medicaid in order to work.
Benefits may continue,
under both programs, if a person medically recovers while
participating in a vocational rehabilitation program.
SSA Press Office 449
Altmeyer Bldg. 6401 Security Blvd. Baltimore, MD 21235
410-965-8904 FAX 410-966-9973