For people who are new to government benefits, the sheer volume of available programs can be overwhelming. It can be difficult to determine the differences between these programs, what each provides, and what is required to qualify for them, without slogging through several pages of dense government material. So, for simplicity’s sake, we will provide a brief overview of Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income, Medicare, Medicaid, and how all four programs interact with one another.

Social Security Disability is a program that gives benefits to people who are no longer able to maintain employment due to an illness or disability. An applicant for SSD must prove that he or she is unable to perform “substantial gainful activity” due to their disability, which, in turn, must persist for at least 12 consecutive months in order to qualify for SSD benefits.

While Supplemental Security Income also gives benefits to disabled claimants, there is no requirement of an inability to work. In fact, the recipient does not need to have been employed at all, as these benefits are available to children and adults alike. However, an applicant for SSI must prove that he or she falls within specific income requirements.

Medicare is a health care program that is made available to SSD recipients after they have received disability benefits for two years. Although program coverage differs, Medicare typically does not pay for prescriptions.

Medicaid, on the other hand, is made available to SSI recipients as soon as they begin receiving benefits. Because it is a “poverty program”, applicants must show that they fall within income requirements in order to qualify for Medicaid.

Source: National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives, ” Frequently Asked Questions “