Can my friend switch from SSI to social Security?
February 11, 2016 6:17 PM   Subscribe

My friend, on SSI disability, is approaching retirement. She thinks, why don't I just drop one for the other? I have earned benefits; that I will soon be eligible for; why not accept? Aren't they based on the same numbers? Wouldn't my SS benefits be based on the same earnings that the SSI were? Given that I was unable to work after being disabled?
posted by ebesan to Law & Government (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Response by poster: Or- they'll require her to switch. Once she reaches retirement age?
posted by ebesan at 7:12 PM on February 11, 2016

That was the gist I got. She can call the office of her elected representatives who have people on "constituent services' who can help her figure this out since it's a federal benefit.
posted by jessamyn at 7:16 PM on February 11, 2016

Is your friend receiving SSI (Supplemental Security Income) or SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance)? SSI is a need-based program (w/ income and asset limits) for those who are elderly or disabled. SSDI is a insurance program that is not needs-based or means-tested; the amount you get is based on the amount you pay in.

If she is getting SSDI, it will automatically convert to Social Security Retirement when she reaches full retirement age. If she is receiving SSI, she did not qualify to get SSDI - so she likely won't qualify for Social Security retirement. If she is receiving SSI, once she reaches 65, she will still be subject to the SSI income/resources rules, but they won't continue to evaluate her disability.

It sounds like she doesn't need to do anything, but she can contact her local Social Security office if she has questions about her status. If she doesn't understand what they are saying or thinks that they are doing something wrong, she should contact a local legal aid organization.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:46 PM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Jessamyn’s Nolo link above describes a wrinkle that would apply to a subset of the working population (think women who stopped working to raise children):

“It sounds like your brother didn't qualify for Social Security disability benefits but does qualify for retirement benefits. This can happen when someone didn't work recently enough in relation to when they filed for disability, but they did work enough years in the past to qualify for a small retirement benefit. In this case, the applicant is stuck with collecting only SSI disability until they turn 62. After they turn 62, they become eligible for Social Security retirement.”

It goes on to note, though, that the SSI benefit, small as it is, will not be reduced to the smaller retirement level.
posted by yclipse at 2:51 AM on February 12, 2016

Response by poster: she says- SSDI
posted by ebesan at 5:59 AM on February 12, 2016

The disability qualifications are the same for SSI and DI, but DI is based on past earnings (regardless of how wealthy you are), and SSI is paid only to people who are extremely poor (regardless of past earnings).

The DI benefit amount is based on past earnings and varies. The SSI benefit amount is generally a fixed amount ($733 this year). Many people are "dual" beneficiaries: they receive their DI benefit plus a "top up" to $733.

If her DI benefit is less than $733, the Social Security Administration should have asked about her assets and other income to determine whether she is eligible for SSI. But if her DI benefit is less than that amount and SSA did not ask about this andshe has very low assets (generally less than $2,000) and she has little or no income from other sources, then she should check with SSA to see if she is eligible for SSI.

As far as reaching retirement age, that will not affect her. When she turns 66, she will be officially transitioned from DI to Social Security's Old-Age program, but that's just an accounting formality that she shouldn't even notice.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:36 AM on February 12, 2016

« Older Looking for an 80s Letterman episode for a friend.   |   Help finding a venue for a series of essays Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.