The reason I say this is because while SSDI is based upon disability and work history, SSI is a program specifically for people who have very limited financial assets. SSI benefits are based on the combination of disability and financial need and pays the same low amount to all recipients in that geographic area(state and occasionally county).
To be eligible for both means that despite having a work history, your income was so low that your monthly SSDI payments combined with everything you own still comes out to you having under $2,000 of assets and a very limited unearned income(which includes your SSDI payments).
How does eligibility work?
The application process for both is the same, and anybody found potentially eligible for SSDI goes through the SSDI application process, while anybody found ineligible for SSDI then can have their income and resource levels checked to see if they are eligible for SSI.
SSDI generally pays more, and is consistent across the US, while SSI isn’t even always consistent between counties in a state.
Your SSDI income is based upon your work history prior to disability – each month you receive a monthly benefit around the range of $700-$3000, but usually averaging around $1200.
Whatever your award is, that’s how much you will get paid every month for as long as you remain eligible.
The only way your monthly benefits may go up is through COLA(Cost of Living Adjustment), which is a percentage increase in payment that the government occasionally adds in to acknowledge inflation.
COLA increases happen at irregular intervals, the most recent one being implemented January 1, 2019.
The way you are eligible for both SSDI and SSI is if your unearned income(your SSDI check plus any other income in that category) is under their magic number, which is $710 per month in most cases. Since that number does have exceptions, you do want to check what your state’s rules are. Here’s a gathering of SSI laws and regulations.
If you get a reasonable monthly check(according to social security) from SSDI, you are ineligible for SSI.
If your income is low enough to qualify, once your SSDI payments start, you can fill out the paperwork to apply for SSI benefits while you are on SSDI.
My memory is that the application was sent to me around when I started getting my SSDI checks – if you think you may be eligible for both(Social Security refers to this as receiving ‘concurrent benefits’), call Social Security to request an application if you didn’t already receive one.
What concurrent benefits do for you
If you are eligible for concurrent benefits(both SSDI and SSI), a few helpful things will happen.
The first is that having concurrent benefits means that you are dual-eligible and are covered by both Medicare and Medicaid. This means you are no longer responsible for paying for your Medicare coverage(when on Medicare, your check is reduced by $183/month to pay for it), and you often will no longer have any copays and will be billed less – as Medicaid covers 100% of their services.
You will still have all of the options you get with Medicare, and will only need to pay the residual 20% of bills that Medicaid doesn’t cover.
For example, if a doctor of yours will accept both Medicare and Medicaid, you will end up paying nothing for the visit, where if you were only receiving Medicare 80% of the visit costs was covered.
If the doctor doesn’t accept Medicaid, you’re no worse off, and sometimes some doctors will waive the fees because they know you are dual-eligible.
Medicaid coverage will also often reduce your prescription costs because again anything covered by Medicaid has a $0 copay instead of whatever your Medicare-based copay was. If Medicaid doesn’t cover it, you can still get the prescription at your usual Medicare rate.
If you are receiving concurrent benefits, you also become eligible for SNAP(food stamps), which while reduced in value of late, is still some additional financial support specifically for the purposes of keeping food on your table. Being on SSI makes you automatically eligible for SNAP, while those of us on SSDI are determined on a case-by-case basis.
The downside of concurrent benefits
Getting concurrent benefits really doesn’t have a negative directly associated with them. If you are eligible for both, you should make sure you have them in action.
The main frustration is simply that if you are eligible for concurrent benefits, it means that your income through SSDI was incredibly low.
Since that’s based upon your work history, there’s nothing you can do once you apply for disability to change it, other than make sure that you apply as soon as possible after you become unable to work.
For the purpose of calculating how much you get each month, your previous 10 years of income are considered. so the more time that elapses between when you stopped working and when you applied for SSDI, the more of those 10 years were spent without income, and the smaller the check is at the end.
Other ways of being dual-eligible for Medicare and Medicaid
The largest advantage of being on both SSDI and SSI is simply that you are covered by both Medicare and Medicaid. Not needing to pay for your Medicare gives you that extra $183/month in your check, plus will likely reduce your medical expenses. What you need to know though, is that getting concurrent benefits(SSI and SSDI) isn’t the only way to be dual-eligible(covered by both Medicare and Medicaid).
Many states have programs specifically to support people with disabilities who are working. In New Jersey, the program is Workability. I used the workability program for years, and greatly appreciated the flexibility it gave me. It was also reassuring to have a way to be guaranteed some insurance coverage even if I earned over SGA(Substantial Gainful Activity).
It’s also possible to apply for Medicaid while you are waiting for disability benefits, as Medicaid is often a quicker process. If you are then awarded SSDI benefits, you will, at least temporarily, be dual-eligible, and if your SSDI income doesn’t prevent your eligibility for Medicaid(or you are eligible through other means) you may be able to continue to have dual-coverage.
Each state’s Medicaid rules are different, so you may be pleasantly surprised if you check into dual-eligibility. If you could be dual eligible, I strongly encourage you to apply – the cost savings may be that extra bit that can help you live more comfortably!
Conclusion: You can get SSI and SSDI
If you are eligible for both SSDI and SSI, you do get improved and extended protections for yourself despite being in a low-income position. If you are on SSDI and ineligible for SSI, that’s likely because your SSDI payment is large enough that you are not considered that low-income, which in itself isn’t bad news, since it means that you do have some money coming in regularly.
Even if you are not able to receive concurrent benefits(SSI and SSDI), you still may be able to qualify for the most useful part of it, dual-eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid.
If you are dual-eligible, Medicaid pays for your medicare and you pay the lowest possible deductibles and copays within your plans.
I highly encourage you to look at your options(or re-examine them) and see if you may be eligible for concurrent benefits(SSI and SSDI). If you aren’t, check for dual eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid! Each state is different and has different rules, so do your research and see what your options are in your state!