Living with Chronic Pain

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)


The Social Security Act created Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to provide a monthly monetary benefit to U.S. citizens who have limited incomes and resources and are 65 or older, blind or disabled. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is only provided to individuals who become disabled and have previously earned enough Social Security credits to receive disability income benefits. Many individuals who have a disability and receive SSDI benefits also qualify for SSI benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides a monthly benefit if an individual has limited income or resources and is 65 or older, blind or disabled. Families with a disabled child may also qualify for SSI. Prior work history is not required to be eligible for SSI benefits.

Each state determines the amount of income or resources that qualifies an individual for benefits. Qualifying factors vary among each state. The SSI monthly monetary benefit is also determined by the state.

This program also helps individuals who are no longer able to work due to chronic conditions (including chronic pain) if income provided by SSDI is not sufficient to provide for basic needs, or the individual does not qualify for SSDI. Individuals receiving SSI benefits can also apply for Medicaid.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) provides a monthly benefit should an individual become disabled. To qualify for SSDI, an individual must not be able to perform any type of work. Families with a child who has a disability may qualify for SSDI.

Income and resources do not factor into qualifying for SSDI. The monthly benefit amount is based on the number of years worked and the amount that was paid to the federal government for Social Security (FICA). Individuals receiving SSDI benefits can apply for Medicare (link to article on Medicare/Medicaid) after 24 months.

Applying for SSDI and/or SSI

Applying for SSI or SSDI involves filing a claim at a local Social Security Administration (SSA) office or online at Applying in person at a local SSA office provides an individual with an opportunity to ask for help while completing the application and to obtain information concerning their specific case.

An individual with a chronic pain condition applying for SSDI and/or SSI will be asked about the effect the pain has on their daily activities, such as sitting, standing or walking. Medical records and information will be gathered from the individual’s health care provider(s). A physician, contracted through the SSA, will perform a physical examination to determine eligibility. After a claim is filed, the Disability Determination Service (DDS) will make a decision either accepting or denying the claim. An individual will not receive monthly benefits until six months after the disability occurred.

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