Social Work Paper on Limitations to Disability Programs, SSI and SSDI

The Supplemental Security Income, abbreviated as SSI, is a social program whose beneficiaries received cash benefits monthly. The beneficiaries include children with disabilities or blind and adults that are either blind, have a disability or aged over 65 years. On the other hand, the Social Security Disability Insurance, abbreviated as SSDI is a social program that pays cash benefits to adults with disabilities. The adults must have been paying FICA taxes during their working years. The distinction between SSDI and SSI is the fact that the earlier is an entitlement to those that have previously paid FICA taxes while the latter is a “needs-based social program”. Notably, both SSI and SSDI have significant limitations.

The first and most fundamental limitations are proof of disability. The beneficiary is compelled to provide valid proof that they have at least a single medical impairment. Other than having medical evidence, the beneficiary is obligated to prove that the disability is such that he is unable to meet the demands of the past job or unable to qualify for alternative jobs for which without the disability he would be qualified for (SAMHSA, 2019). Finally, the condition of disability must last for at least a year. The limit is the

SSI also has an income limitation, equivalent to the federal benefit rate (FBR), that is, $771 and $1,157 monthly for an individual and a couple respectively. However, not all income is included in the count and as such, there are instances where once can qualify for SSI despite having a monthly income exceeding $771 (SAMHSA, 2019). Notably, there are instances where the income made by people living with SSI beneficiaries are considered in calculating the countable income. A case in point is when one has a spouse that is not a recipient of SSI.  Further, in a case where a child with a disability makes an application for SSI, some of the parent’s income is considered as the child’s income. SSDI differs from SSI in that it does not limit assets or cash owned by beneficiaries. However, there is a limitation concerning income from work. Where one is considered capable of substantial gainful work, the person does not qualify for the program. It is noteworthy that while people that earn more than $1,220 monthly are ineligible, earnings unrelated to active work such as investments, spouse income, and interest do not affect eligibility (SAMHSA, 2019). However, a portion of the SSDI benefits will be subject to tax.

Other limitations considered are the beneficiaries’ assets and state supplements. Concerning assets, a beneficiary must have assets valued at less than $2000 for individuals and $3000 for couples. State supplements vary from one state to another (SAMHSA, 2019). A majority offer SSI beneficiary some supplemental income. In this regard, the income limit increases as the state supplement amount increases. This is intended to allow individuals eligible for high amounts from SSI due to state supplements to qualify irrespective of their higher countable income.

In general, the limitations to disability programs, SSI and SSDI, are related to assets, income, disability situation, previous payments, and state subsidies among others. The limitations are aimed at ensuring equity in terms of gains that individuals make while also extending social support to those that need it.



  1. A. M. H. S. A. (2019). Overview of Social Security Disability Programs: SSI and SSDI. Retrieved from