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This is a question we receive frequently: what is the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? The two programs are very similar. Both pay cash benefits to individuals who are unable to work as a result of a physical or mental medical disability that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death. Both are administered by the Social Security Administration, with hearings conducted by Administrative Law Judges at the Social Security's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. Individuals applying for both SSDI benefits and SSI benefits go through the same process, and attorneys can be hired with the same contract agreement for both programs.

The main difference between Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits is that SSDI benefits are only available to individuals who have worked, paid Social Security taxes, and accumulated enough work credits to be insured. An individual's finances have nothing to do with their eligibility for SSDI benefits. You could have a million dollars in the bank, but if you prove you are disabled and unable to work any job in the national economy, you are eligible to be awarded SSDI benefits. Medical disability and inability to work are the only criteria; need and financial hardship are not taken into account. When an individual is awarded SSDI benefits, they become eligible for Medicare insurance 29 months from the date they are deemed disabled. SSDI benefits are generally higher than SSI benefits; the average monthly disability rate is $1,171.00.

SSI benefits are available to disabled individuals who have not worked or paid sufficient Social Security taxes. Like SSDI applicants, SSI applicants must establish that they have a medical disability that prevents them from working; however, unlike SSDI benefits, need and financial hardship are criteria for SSI benefits. To be eligible for SSI benefits, you must be at least 65 years, blind, or disabled, and you must have a limited income. The maximum monthly SSI benefit rate is $735.00 for an individual and $1,103.00 for a couple. SSI benefits may be reduced further if the individual lives in a household and does not pay for food and shelter, such as a parent or benevolent family member.


Can You Collect Both Social Security Disability and Temporary Total Disability Benefits?

Yes, in Illinois you can collect Social Security Disability and Temporary Total Disability benefits at the same time with no reduction of your workers' compensation benefits.

Many of our clients pursue both Social Security Disability and workers' compensation cases at the same time.

If you are injured as a result of a work accident, you can file for both workers' compensation benefits and Social Security Disability benefits. This can be because your work-related injury may prevent you from returning to your previous job. It can because of your age and lack of training to perform other work. As such you may be considered disabled under the Social Security Disability regulations (Grids) and be entitled to benefits.

The “80% Rule”

Between workers' compensation and Social Security Disability benefits, the Social Security Administration will allow you to collect 80% of your "Average Current Earnings" (ACE). This is called the "80% Rule". Any combination of workers' compensation and Social Security Disability benefits that exceeds 80% of your Average Current Earnings (ACE) will be deducted from your Social Security Disability benefits by the federal government. In other words, if you are receiving Social Security Disability benefits and workers' compensation (Temporary Total Disability) benefits at the same time, the Social Security Administration will likely reduce the monthly amount that you receive in disability payments.


An experienced workers' compensation attorney with knowledge of the Social Security laws should be able to ensure you receive your full monthly Social Security Disability benefits if you settle your workers' compensation case.

The attorney should use "Spread Language" to have your workers' compensation settlement spread and prorated over the remainder of your life expectancy. You would still receive your workers' compensation settlement money in a lump sum all at once, but for Social Security Disability purposes the settlement would be considered as payment over the rest of your life and not impact your monthly Social Security Disability benefits.

However, if you do not spread and prorate your workers' compensation settlement, the government could severely reduce or even completely terminate your monthly Social Security disability benefits.

This is because of the "80% Rule", which provides that the Social Security Administration only allows you to collect a combination of 80% of what you were earning while working and before receiving workers' compensation and Social Security Disability benefits.

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