Concurrent Benefits: Qualifying for SSI and SSDI Simultaneously

While both are benefits programs administered by the Social Security Administration, SSI and SSDI are not exactly the same.  SSI is need-based, while SSDI is based on how many work credits you have earned during your time in the workforce. Therefore, these programs have different eligibility requirements, and most people only qualify for one or the other.  However, some people actually qualify for both programs at the same time, which is known as receiving concurrent benefits.  Could you qualify for concurrent benefits?  Our Philadelphia disability lawyers explain the rules and requirements.

Social Security Benefits

Who Qualifies for Concurrent Disability Benefits?

At first glance, there isn’t much overlap between SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) and SSI (Supplemental Security Income), because they impose different SSDI income limits in Pennsylvania on claimants. However, these programs also share a major similarity in that both grant financial benefits to disabled people who cannot work (or can only work in a very limited capacity) because of a severe medical condition.  Perhaps it is therefore unsurprising that some people are actually able to qualify for both SSI and SSDI at the same time.  But how?

In most cases, claimants qualify for concurrent benefits because they have been approved for SSDI, but do not receive a high payment.  After all, while the maximum SSDI payment is $2,642 in 2014 and $2,663 in 2015, many applicants who qualify do not actually receive the maximum amount.  The average SSDI applicant is estimated to receive $1,148 in 2014, and $1,165 in 2015.

As these numbers demonstrate, even the average recipient receives about $1,500 less than the possible maximum — and that doesn’t even take into account those applicants who receive lower-than-average monthly payments.  The reasons for each SSA determination vary, but some common reasons a qualified claimant might receive lower SSDI payments include earning low wages, or having a sparse employment history.

Whatever the reason for a low SSDI benefit may be, the ultimate effect is often eligibility for concurrent benefits.  However, there are still certain rules and requirements you need to satisfy in order to be approved.

female hands stamping document in office, close up

Requirements for Receiving SSDI and SSI Simultaneously

As noted above, SSI and SSDI are both subject to special income limits set which are determined by the SSA.  These limits change annually to accommodate economic changes and the Cost of Living Adjustment (often abbreviated to COLA), becoming slightly higher every year as noted on the SSA’s Substantial Gainful Activity chart.  The income limit for SSI is called the Federal Benefit Rate and increases every year, shifting from $721 in 2014 to $733 in 2015.

So how do these earnings thresholds affect concurrent benefits claimants?  Essentially, you must not exceed the SSI Federal Benefit Rate of $721 for 2014 or $733 for 2015 if you are trying to qualify for SSI in addition to SSDI.

However, that’s not quite as simple as it initially seems, because the SSA uses extremely complex calculations to determine how much of your income actually counts toward the Federal Benefit Rate.  In other words, you could be earning more than $721 or $733 per month and still manage to qualify for SSI, because not all earnings are counted toward the SSI limit.  (To give just one example of the SSA’s many exclusions, the first $65 you earn each month will not be counted.)

It’s important to understand that if your SSDI payments fall on the higher end of the spectrum, you probably will not qualify to receive SSI in addition.  However, it’s always worthwhile to consult with an experienced attorney if you have any questions or wish to appeal a denial of your claim.

How to File a Claim for Concurrent Benefits

Applying for concurrent benefits is simple, because the SSA takes care of the categorization work. In other words, you can apply for SSI or SSDI at your discretion, and the SSA will decide whether your income and assets qualify you for concurrent benefits. You do not have to go out of your way to make a special concurrent benefits application.

In all but a few exceptional cases, such as claims involving extremely rare or advanced terminal conditions, all disability benefits claims are evaluated along the same basic guidelines, which require:

  • A 12-month history (or 12-month expected prognosis) of the condition, or an expected prognosis of death.
  • Severe disability to the extent that employment is impossible or severely limited.

Pennsylvania Disability Lawyers Offering Free Consultations

If you’re interested in filing for disability in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, or if you were denied and want to challenge the decision, the social security attorneys of Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates can help. To schedule a free and confidential legal consultation, call our law offices at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania today.

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