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Financial eligibility standards

Social Security Disability Insurance

A person qualifies for SSDI if they have worked and paid Social Security payroll taxes for a sufficient period of time prior to becoming disabled. Generally, if a person is over 30 they would have had to have worked 20 quarters (5 years, not necessarily consecutive) over the 10 year period prior to becoming disabled. You should check with your Social Security office to see if you have the necessary number of quarters. If you are lacking one or two quarters, check with the Massachusetts CFIDS/ME & FM Association; sometimes there is a way to achieve the necessary number. Our Social Security Disability booklet will give you a full explanation of this category of eligibility.

There are no income or asset requirements for SSDI. You could be getting investment income or other forms of income for which you do not work. Also you can have assets of any amount.

The monthly disability payment will depend on how much average earnings or salary you had when you worked. If you worked part-time you will receive less. The amount may range from a few hundred dollars to over $2000 a month. The average amount is about $1,000-$1200 per month for an average yearly earnings of $20,000-$25,000. Check with your Social Security Office to obtain an estimate of your monthly cash benefits.

Because Social Security Disability payments are often not enough to pay for all living costs, especially housing costs, many disabled persons find it necessary to apply for other forms of assistance, especially housing assistance, if they have no other source of income. These other forms of assistance are discussed in the sections Housing/Other Essential Needs and Disability Resources.  Besides a financial payment, SSDI also provides Medicare medical insurance but there is a waiting period of 2 years from the date of disability. The Social Security medical insurance programs will be discussed in Medical Insurance

Supplemental Security Income

Often people who are chronically-ill and disabled have not worked for many years, or have only worked part-time, or even worked at employment where they did not pay Social Security payroll taxes, so they don't have the "quarters paid in" to qualify for SSDI.

For people who do not have the required work credits and are disabled, SSI may be available. However, SSI is a program that has tough income and asset requirements. There is an income ceiling that a person can have—that is income from all sources. The income amount is the amount of SSI monthly payment, which varies by state. In Massachusetts the amount is somewhere in the area of $600-$700. (Check with your local Social Security office for the exact figure.)

If you have income from any source(s) above this amount you will not be eligible. This includes income from a spouse. And any income you receive from SSI will be deducted from the little other income that you have. However, if you do qualify for SSI, you will get Medicaid, a comprehensive medical insurance plan, immediately. (See Medical Insurance for some details).

You also will probably be eligible for food stamps and fuel assistance. Also there is an asset limit for SSI. You cannot have assets of more than $2,000. You may have a car and a house that you live in. Call Social Security for more details. If your SSDI amount of monthly income is under the SSI payment limit, you will be able to collect from both programs. SSI will supplement your SSDI up to the SSI limit. You apply for SSI in the same way as SSDI.