Washington, DC - Social Security Matters by AMAC’s Certified Social Security Advisor C.J. Miles:

QUESTION: With all the disability discussion in the news, I was wondering if people on disability have an option to try to work.  I've heard about "Ticket to Work", but don't really know what it is.

ANSWER: The Social Security Administration (SSA) does encourage people who are on disability to return to work, or at least try.  Ticket to Work is a free and voluntary program that allows someone on SSI (Supplemental Security Income) or SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) to obtain employment and vocational rehabilitation services.  In addition, the disabled beneficiary will be connected to an employment network (EN) that will help them find an appropriate job.

The SSA also does not want to discourage people from attempting to find a job because they are receiving disability benefits.  If someone is actively participating in the Ticket to Work program, the SSA will not conduct the normal periodic medical review.  Furthermore, the Work Incentives program assists the beneficiary in transitioning to working life by providing Medicaid and assistance with additional work expenses the person may have due to the disability.

The SSA also had a trial work period so that someone on disability can try to go back to work without worrying about losing their disability benefits.  The trial work period consists of any 9 months in a 60-month period and the person will still receive their benefits as long as they still have the disability.  If the person continues to work, but it is not enough for it to be considered "substantial gainful activity" (such as working only a few hours a week), they can still receive their benefits. If the person is considered to have "substantial gainful activity" after the trial work period, benefits will stop; however, if the disability is still an issue and the individual can no longer work, they can have an expedited reinstatement of their benefits within 5 years of benefits ceasing.

QUESTION: I need to file for disability, but I don't know if I should file for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance.  What's the difference?

ANSWER: SSI and SSDI both pay disability.  Both are administered by the Social Security Administration, but they do have a significant difference between them.

SSDI is a part of Title II of the Social Security Act.  These disability benefits (like old-age retirement or Social Security benefits) are based on the number of credits you have earned while working and paying into the Social Security system.  However, unlike Social Security, you do not need 40 credits to be eligible. The number of credits you need is based on your age.  For example, if you are 40 years old, you need 20 credits; if you are 50 years old, you need 28 credits.

SSI, on the other hand, is a part of Title XVI of the Social Security Act and it pays disability benefits to adults and children with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, and/or over age 65.  Therefore, credits are not needed.  Since there are no "credit" requirements and it is intended for people with low income, SSI has additional requirements that involve income limits and resource limits.  They also take into account factors such as deemed income and living arrangements (to see if you have income assistance from others).

You do not have to worry about which program is a better option for you.  When you apply for disability, your application is automatically an application for both programs.  In fact, some people qualify for both SSI and SSDI and will receive benefits from both programs.  Since both programs are administered by the SSA, the specific requirements used to determine if an adult is disabled is the same for both SSI and SSDI; however, they do not determine disability in the same way for children (those under 18).

To ask a question about Social Security contact AMAC’s C.J. Miles at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The information contained in this article is for general information purposes only. Every individual’s situation is unique and you should make your benefit choices according to your personal needs. Furthermore, AMAC and its affiliates do not provide legal or accounting services. Please contact a licensed professional for such advice.