elderly womanMany people pursuing Social Security Disability benefits in Illinois do not qualify for the maximum SSD benefit amount, which is set at $2,642 for 2014. Individuals who are awarded significantly less may struggle to support themselves. Fortunately, individuals with an especially low SSD benefit amount may be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income along with SSD benefits.

Financial considerations

An individual can only receive concurrent benefits from the SSI and SSD programs if his or her income is less than the monthly SSI income limit. For 2014, the limit is $721. The sum of the individual’s monthly SSD benefit and any other forms of counted income must fall below this limit.

The SSA may count various unusual forms of income as monthly income. For example, the SSA may view the income of another person living in the applicant’s household as income that belongs to the applicant. Fortunately, the SSA does not count certain other kinds of income, including food stamps, tax refunds and need-based public benefits.

If an individual qualifies to receive concurrent benefits, the SSI award amount is adjusted downward based on the SSD benefit amount. The combined benefit amount cannot exceed the SSI limit of $721.

Receiving SSI and SSD benefits in tandem offers gains aside from increasing income for people with low SSD awards. As an example, SSI recipients automatically qualify for Medicaid, while SSD recipients can qualify for Medicare two years after becoming eligible for SSD benefits. Choosing which coverage to use benefits many individuals with disabilities, as each program offers distinct advantages.

Application process

An individual applying for one type of benefits does not have to separately file an application for the other type. If the individual qualifies for an SSD benefit that falls below the SSI income limit, the SSA will automatically award an SSI payment to bring the total benefit amount to $721.

Completing a successful application, however, can be difficult. The SSA will consider various factors to evaluate whether an applicant is capable of any kind of gainful employment, including:

  • The nature of the disabling condition and the limitations it causes.
  • The efficacy of different treatments and the likelihood of medical improvement.
  • The individual’s credibility and willingness to try suggested treatments.
  • The individual’s ability to work, whether in a job held in the past or an entirely new field of work.

Most individuals can improve their likelihood of receiving benefits from both programs by working with an attorney to complete the SSD or SSI application.