What is the difference between Disability Income Benefits (Title II) and Supplemental Security Income (Title XVI) Benefits?

There are two main components of the Social Security Disability system. Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II are available to disabled persons who have worked and earned enough quarters of coverage. In general, to be insured an individual has to have worked at least five out of the last ten years prior to becoming disabled. The rules are relaxed for younger individuals-those under 30. The DIB program is therefore designed to help persons who have paid money (through payroll taxes) into the Social Security system. The DIB program is unique in that you can be eligible for back benefits up to one year prior to your first application for benefits. This means you might be entitled to a lump sum check if you have been disabled for several months or years. Your attorney can also help determine the earliest possible “onset date” for your disability. Your attorney can assist you in reopening any prior applications to achieve the largest possible past due benefits.

By contrast the SSI program under Title XVI is available to everyone, whether or not you have worked before or paid money into the system. The definition of “disability” is essentially the same for both SSI and DIB. Unlike the DIB program, however, you cannot claim back benefits for any time prior to the date of your first initial application. SSI is designed to help only those persons with extremely low income and resources. Therefore, you may not be eligible for SSI if you own any significant assets or if your household income (i.e. spouse’s paycheck) exceeds a certain level.

You can be eligible for both DIB and SSI. If you believe that you are eligible for both DIB and SSI, you should make sure that your claims examiner understands that you are applying for both programs. An SSI application is a protective filing for DIB, but the reverse is not true. The Social Security Administration will advise you in separate written documents about your status and eligibility for each program.

Besides DIB and SSI, there are a number of other programs administered by the Social Security Administration. These include widow/widower’s benefits, divorced spouse’s benefits, death benefits, and retirement benefits, to name a few. Children may also be eligible for SSI benefits or disabled child’s benefits if they meet Social Security’s standards for disabled children.