SSI and SSDI – Soc. Sec. Disability Benefits

SSI (Supplemental Security Income) is a federally operated public assistance program for people who have disabilities. The program comes with cash benefits, Medicaid (CNP) coverage, and recipients are eligible for food stamps.

SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) is also a benefit for the disabled, but only applies to those with sufficient work histories. The cash benefit will vary based on credits in the system (i.e. how long you’ve worked and how much you made).



Federal permanent disability program includes:

  • About $660 per month (SSI only. SSDI varies.)
  • Food stamps
  • Medical coupons CNP (If on SSI or very low SSDI amount. May be Medicare eligible.)


  • Must be “incapable of gainful employment as a result of a physical or mental impairment that is expected to continue for 12 months or more from the date of application”.
  • ”Gainful employment” means you can perform, in a regular and predictable manner, an activity usually done for pay or profit.
  • Occasional or part-time work is generally NOT considered gainful employment.

Application Process

  1. Complete Social Security “Disability Report” (On Line applications, you will be sent an appointment time, you then go in and are called by name)
  2. Turn in application at Social Security (402 Yauger Way SW, Olympia)
  3. Screening & application (1 to 1 1/2 hour interview)
  4. Disability Determination Services (DDS) gathers medical evidence
  5. DDS determines eligibility (4 to 6 month time frame)
  6. If denied, call Attorneys Steve Maddox 786 8276, or Halpern & Oliver 753 8055 or 800-342-9417, to appeal. (For more info, see under “Legal”)

Note: People are generally denied for benefits in a wholesale fashion. 50% of those who hire an attorney and appeal win the appeal and are awarded benefits. Attorneys charge 25% of retroactive benefits (back-pay to date of application). You will NOT be charged from your monthly SSI check.

Soc. Sec. Office # 753 9451

Common Problems


If the SSDI amount exceeds the equivalent of SSI, the recipient may be required to have a “spend-down” on their medical coupon, or may be ineligible for Medicaid altogether.


Overpayments happen from time to time, and Soc. Sec. will pursue reimbursement. If this happens to you, call your caseworker at Family Support Center, or check the NW Justice Project’s website for “How to fight an overpayment”. (There are generally two options to fighting an overpayment: an appeal if you think they didn’t actually overpay you; or an “Equitable Estoppel” waiver if you think they made a mistake that was no fault of your own. Soc. Sec. also can set up a plan for very small payments if Soc Sec is your only income.)


Soc. Sec. will cut benefits to people with warrants out for their arrest or who are incarcerated. Sometimes they will discover a very old warrant and terminate benefits. Talk to your caseworker or advocate if this happens, and try to get the warrants dropped. Call the Prosecuting Attorney in offended state, county and explain the situation and ask that charges be dropped.

Additional Resources