The Social Security Administration offers two types of disability benefits, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is available to disabled people based on their work history, while SSI eligibility is "needs-based" and available to low-income disabled, blind, or elderly people.
Often people who qualify for one benefit aren't eligible for the other, either because they make too much money or haven't worked enough in the past. But in certain circumstances, you can get both SSI and SSDI benefits at the same time. Social Security refers to this as "receiving concurrent benefits."
You don't need to do anything special in order to apply for concurrent benefits. You can apply for SSDI, SSI, or both benefits at the same time through the Social Security Administration. Whether you apply in person, online, or over the phone, Social Security will look at your income and assets, then decide if you're eligible for SSI, SSDI, or both.
A state agency, Disability Determination Services (DDS), will process your application ("claim"). Disability is defined the same way for both SSDI and SSI claims, and both involve the same disability evaluation process. So the type of disabling medical condition you have won't affect whether you get SSDI, SSI, or concurrent benefits.
Concurrent benefits can happen if you're approved for SSDI but your monthly benefit amount is very small. You might get a very low SSDI award if your wages were low or you haven't worked much in recent years. To qualify for SSI and SSDI at the same time, your total income—including SSDI—must be less than the current SSI monthly payment amount (in 2023, $914 per month).
But determining your SSI income limit is more complicated than just making less than $914 per month. For instance, some states have a higher income limit. And if you're working and making some money, not all of your income will count towards the limit. The SSI program also has asset limits, so even if your income is low enough, the value of the property you own could affect your eligibility or award amount.
If your income and assets are low enough to qualify for SSI, and you also worked long enough to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance, you might be able to receive both benefits at once. Just keep in mind that the amount of your disability payment will affect your eligibility for SSI. In many cases, your SSDI payment will be too high for you to qualify for SSI.
If you qualify for SSI, any other income you have will affect the amount of your monthly benefit. Remember, the current SSI monthly maximum is $914. But calculating your concurrent SSI benefit isn't as simple as subtracting the amount of your disability payment from $914.
Social Security excludes the first $20 of unearned income, like SSDI, from the SSI limit. So, if your SSDI payment is $500 a month and you have no other income, your SSI benefit would be $434 a month. That's because SSA counts only $480 of your $500 disability payment, and $914 minus $480 is $434.
You might be eligible for both SSDI and SSI for just a short time. Here's when that might happen:
Having a successful concurrent disability claim comes with several important benefits. The main advantage of collecting SSI when you're getting a low monthly SSDI benefit is that the SSI payment will raise your maximum benefit up to $914 per month.
Another advantage is that you can get back pay for both SSI and SSDI. Backpay—also called past due benefits—are the payments that Social Security owes you for the months leading up to the approval of your claim. The agency can take anywhere from three months to two years to approve your benefits, and for some of those months you can receive back pay for the amount of your SSDI payment plus the extra SSI payment.
For instance, if you're awarded $500 in monthly SSDI and $361 in SSI benefits, that's $861 a month. If Social Security takes ten months to approve your claims, you could get up to $8,610 in back pay. You can learn more in our article about how back pay is calculated.
An additional benefit to collecting SSDI when you're eligible for SSI is that you might be able to get Medicare, even if you're not yet 65 years old. However, you'll have to wait two years (24 months) after you become eligible for disability benefits before you qualify for Medicare.
If you're not eligible for SSDI and you're not 65 yet, you can't get Medicare. But, if you're getting SSI benefits, you'll qualify for Medicaid in most states—even if you're also collecting SSDI.
Both programs can give you access to health care you might not otherwise have, but they aren't the same. In most states, Medicaid provides payment for more services than Medicare. On the other hand, more doctors accept Medicare, so it can be easier to find a provider under that program. For more information, see our article on getting Medicare or Medicaid while on disability.
Concurrent claims for SSDI and SSI can be denied for the following reasons:
If your claim for concurrent benefits was denied because you aren't financially eligible for both SSDI and SSI—but you still can qualify for either one of the programs—Social Security will continue processing your claim under the program that you do qualify for. For example, if your date last insured for SSDI was too long ago but you're under the resource limits for SSI, the agency will treat your concurrent claim as an application for SSI only.
Reasons for medical denials are the same regardless of whether your claim is for SSDI, SSI, or both. Typically, a medical denial means that Social Security doesn't have enough evidence to determine that you can't work. Medical denials are less common than technical denials, but they're easier to overturn on appeal.
You can learn more about how to appeal technical and medical denials in our article on what to do if you get denied for Social Security disability.
Updated May 5, 2023