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Understanding the differences between SSDI and SSI benefits

Many people in New Jersey and elsewhere receive financial assistance under either the Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") program or the Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") program. The differences between the two plans are fairly obvious to beneficiaries, but persons who are not receiving benefits often misunderstand the purpose and eligibility requirements of the two plans.

SSI benefits are provided for persons who are elderly, blind or disabled and who have difficulty in paying for food and shelter. SSI is often referred to as a "means tested" program because persons who earn more than the limits prescribed by federal regulations are not eligible for benefits. SSI beneficiaries can receive healthcare through Medicaid

The SSDI program is intended to provide financial assistance to persons who have been totally and permanently disabled by either an injury or illness and are no longer able to support themselves. Persons become eligible for SSDI benefits after they have worked for ten years and have contributed a minimum amount to the program. SSDI beneficiaries receive healthcare through Medicare. Since eligibility for SSDI benefits does not depend upon a person's current income, it is known as an "entitlement program." Many recipients of SSDI benefits have contributed more than they are receiving by paying into the program during the ten years when they are building up eligibility by making payments from their paycheck.

Applicants for SSDI benefits must provide medical evidence verifying that they are in fact physically disabled and that the disability is either permanent or will result in death in one year. The amount of benefits paid by each program can vary significantly. Anyone who is wondering about eligibility for either of these programs may wish to consult an attorney who is experienced in preparing and filing applications.

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