Navigating Disability & Social Security

SSDI stands for Social Security Disability Insurance and SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income.  Did you know there is a very distinct difference between the two?

Qualifying for compassionate allowances

When my cancer was initially diagnosed, I was actually approved for SSDI immediately.  Social Security has what is called Compassionate Allowances.  In simple terms, it is a list of diseases that will get IMMEDIATE approval for Disability from Social Security.  Having both lobes of my left lung removed put me on that list.  But you may not know that not everyone who has a "disabling condition" will receive Social Security Disability.  This is because you have to pay into Social Security for approximately 10 years to qualify with enough "credits."  Again, I was lucky and had these credits.

Low on credits?

But what happens if you haven't worked and don't have enough credits.  That is where SSI comes into play.  You should receive a statement from Social Security approximately once a year and on it you can see how many credits you have towards disability. It also tells you, if you were to become disabled today, what your monthly benefit would be from Social Security. If this spot is $0.00, don't panic yet.

You would still need to create a username on Social Security, complete the application for SSDI and wait.  As soon as it is entered into their system, it will show you do not have enough credits for Social Security Disability Insurance.  What you may not know is, at this point, the SSDI submits your application to your state.

Maneuvering the disability maze

There are MANY variables as to what makes you eligible for SSDI or SSI, however, if you are found to have a disabling condition but NOT eligible for SSDI, SSI will make payments to you.  It varies from state to state, but the maximum "federal benefit rate" in 2018 is $750 per month for individuals and $1,125 for couples.1 In Ohio, if you are eligible for SSI you will also be eligible for Food Assistance and Medicaid - from the sheer fact that the amount they pay you is so low.

Again, there are many, many laws surrounding these benefits and while some of us may qualify, others may not.  This is simply a breakdown for you to help maneuver the disability maze and to know what the two types of monetary benefits are.

If you have any questions about your personal case, please consult a Disability attorney.  Keep in mind - many won't get paid unless you do.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 28, 2020, Jennifer Toth passed away. Jennifer was a passionate advocate for the Lung Cancer community. She will be deeply missed.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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