Although the terms “Title II Benefits” and “Title XVI” benefits are not as commonly used, they correspond directly to what we refer to more frequently as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, respectively.
The terms “Title II” and “Title XVI” come from the parts of the Social Security Act that discuss each type of benefit. Although each type has similarities, they are more different than they are alike.
To receive Title II/SSDI benefits, you must meet the federal definition of disabled, which roughly translates to a disabling injury or condition that prevents you from performing substantial gainful activity. The condition must be expected to last at least twelve consecutive months or result in your death.
Most importantly, you must have enough work credits to qualify for Title II/SSDI benefits. Work credits are earned each quarter that you earn wages and pay into the Social Security system. As a result, the amount you earn each month is determined by the amount that you paid into the system over your lifetime of employment before you became disabled. Monthly benefits are typically two-to-three times greater than monthly SSI benefits.
Title II/SSDI benefits are not needs-based, so there are no income or asset restrictions that will influence whether you will qualify to receive benefits or what your monthly benefit amount will be. Your monthly benefit amount is paid for by the Social Security Trust Fund.
Once you have received Title II/SSDI benefits for two years, you are automatically enrolled in Medicare for health insurance coverage. You can also be awarded retroactive benefits for a period of time when you were disabled but had not yet been awarded benefits.
On the other hand, Title XVI/SSI benefits are needs-based and are paid for by general funds. SSI was created when state welfare programs for the blind, disabled, and elderly were federalized. SSI benefits are reserved for low-income individuals with few assets. Although SSI still has a disability component, the income threshold is extremely low, and benefits are designed to help SSI recipients with basic needs.
The federal government sets a maximum SSI monthly award amount, but individual states have the option to supplement that award amount, and many do. Immediately upon being approved for Title XVI/SSI benefits, you will qualify for Medicaid health insurance coverage.
In rare instances, claimants can qualify for both Title II/SSDI and Title XVI/SSI benefits, called concurrent benefits, but the criteria to qualify are strict. If you are not sure which benefits you may qualify for, talk to a Social Security disability attorney about your options.