When a special needs planner meets with the family of a person with special needs, the planner will often ask the family what federal disability benefit their loved one receives. In many cases, the family will tell the planner that their relative receives some kind of cash benefit, but they frequently don’t know if that benefit is a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit or a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit. In some cases, even the person receiving the benefit might not know what type of benefit it is. But there are a couple of tricks for determining the type of disability benefit, short of finding the disability award letter or contacting the Social Security Administration directly.
First, the amount of the benefit is a clue. The federal SSI benefit is capped at $733 per month (in 2016), with some states supplementing this with an additional smaller payment. So if the beneficiary is receiving a monthly distribution of $1,000 or more, you know for sure that the beneficiary is receiving SSDI, which can have higher cash payments, not SSI.
Often, the beneficiary’s cash award is not higher than the maximum SSI benefit, so this first method won’t work. In this case, the family needs to look at the date of the benefit payment in order to determine the type of benefit being received. If the benefit is deposited on the first of the month (or on the banking day before the first of the month if the first of the month falls on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday), then the beneficiary is receiving SSI. If the benefit is deposited on the third day of the month, then the beneficiary is receiving SSI and SSDI. Finally, if the benefit is deposited on the second, third or fourth Wednesday of the month, then the beneficiary is receiving SSDI.
Although these tricks will help your special needs planner with an initial evaluation of your family member’s needs, please keep in mind they do not define the benefits with certainty. It is always important to get your hands on the Social Security Administration’s actual award letter in order to give the planner an accurate picture of how the disability benefit is calculated.