People do not often understand that, under the umbrella of social security law there are in fact two separate, and very different, programs. According to Disability Blog, the first form of social security is social security disability (SSDI), as outlined in Title II of the Social Security Act. Under this form of social security, an individual becomes eligible for social security disability insurance benefits through their prior employment and if the Social Security Administration made a determination that the individual is disabled.
Under this prong of social security, there are various requirements. For instance, in order to receive benefits, the individual must not be working and cannot be earning more than the set earnings limit for that given year. In the legal world, this means not participating in any “substantial gainful activity.” However, it is important to note that this does not include assets. In other words, when applying for benefits, the Social Security Administration does not take into consideration an individual’s assets.
The second form of disability, also administered by the Social Security Administration, is commonly referred to as SSI Disability. As the first form discussed above, SSI is a needs-based program. Likewise, the same limits to one’s earnings apply to SSI Disability. Unlike the first form, SSI does have a strict limitation to assets of $2,000. In other words, an individual seeking SSI Disability benefits cannot have in excess of $2,000 in countable assets or any assets “not essential for daily use and living” (i.e., home, primary vehicle, etc.)
So how does one decide under which program he or she should apply? Well, that depends. In some situations, an individual may choose to apply under both. Typically, however, the determination starts with a look at one’s countable assets. If they exceed the limit (which is often the case when a disability is the result of one’s work), then they opt for the first program.