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What is the difference between SSD and SSI?

Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income are two programs that provide benefits for people who are unable to work for a living due to injury, illness or other condition. However, the two programs are very different from each other.

The Social Security Disability Insurance program is, as its name suggests, a kind of insurance program. As with Social Security retirement benefits, workers pay into the SSD program during their working lives. If illness, injury or some other condition renders them unable to work for a living before they are eligible for retirement, they may make a claim for benefits. To be eligible for the benefits, they must have a qualifying condition and have paid into the system through working a sufficient number of hours.

What happens to people who have not worked a sufficient number of hours to qualify for SSD? For a couple examples, imagine a teenage boy who is permanently injured in a car accident before he is old enough to work, or a girl who is born with a mental condition that leaves her permanently unable to work. Once they turn 18, they are legally adults and therefore unable to collect benefits for children under other programs.

The Supplemental Security Income program can help. SSI is open to people age 18 or older, who are not currently receiving benefits on their Social Security record, and who are not able to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last at least a year or result in death. There are several other criteria as well, and applicants must provide extensive documentation of their condition.

In addition to SSD and SSI, there are other federal and state programs that can help people who are disabled. A lawyer with experience in Social Security Disability can help the disabled and their families to understand their options.

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