When people in the U.S. living with MS can no longer work, many seek Social Security disability benefits. Disability benefits help replace lost income when people with MS leave their jobs.
Applying for disability benefits can be emotionally difficult. “Starting the Social Security process … Ugh! Sounds daunting!” wrote one MyMSTeam member.
The process of applying for a disability claim can feel intimidating, but understanding the process ahead of time can make applying easier.
Disability Benefit Programs in the U.S.
There are two different federal disability programs in the United States, Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To qualify for either program, you must have a disability that interferes with your ability to work.
Social Security Disability Income provides benefits to those who have previously had full-time work. SSDI benefits are funded through payroll taxes. If you are approved, you can receive benefits six months after you become disabled. If you have been disabled for at least a year, you may be able to get back payments of disability benefits for a 12-month period. You are eligible for Medicare 24 months after you start receiving SSDI.
Supplemental Security Income provides benefits to those who have not worked the required time period and have a low income. If you are approved, you can receive benefits in the next month. You may also be eligible for back payments of SSI if you became disabled before your SSI approval.
In most states, SSI eligibility qualifies you for Medicaid. In Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and the Northern Mariana Islands, you have to apply for Medicaid separately from SSI, but the criteria for both are the same. Eligibility criteria for SSI recipients varies across states.
Almost every state provides an SSI supplement. Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota, and West Virginia do not. The eligibility rules for supplements vary by state.
There is an asset cap for receiving Supplemental Security Income. If an individual has more than $2,000 of assets (or a couple has more than $3,000 of assets), they lose eligibility. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a list of which assets are counted toward the maximum.
It’s possible to get both SSDI and SSI if you have very limited funds and have a work history.
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