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What Is the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers two main types of disability programs. These programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both benefits programs pay you if you cannot work due to disability. But SSDI and SSI programs have notable differences, especially in the non-medical requirements of entitlement and eligibility.

For SSDI insurance program entitlement, you must have "paid into" the system through Social Security taxes. But SSI is a needs-based program that will pay you monthly benefits if you have very limited income and resources.

There are a few similarities. For both programs, you must meet the SSA's strict definition of disability. Also, suppose you have a severe medical condition found on the SSA's Compassionate Allowance list. In that case, the SSA may process your claim more quickly, regardless of application type. Finally, you can appeal unfavorable decisions in SSI or SSDI claims.

It is possible to get both SSDI and SSI payments simultaneously or “concurrently." But, in certain circumstances, like returning to work, claimants may face a reduction or cessation in benefits.

The following article will explain some of the main differences between the SSDI and SSI benefits programs for disabled people. FindLaw's main Social Security Disability Benefits page offers more articles and resources about SSA-administered disability benefits.

SSDI at a Glance

  • The source of SSDI payments is the Social Security trust fund.
  • Your qualifying dependents may be eligible for benefits under your work record. Qualifying dependents includes children, spouses and surviving spouses, and adults disabled since childhood.
  • There is a five-month waiting period for your first benefit payment. The first benefit begins in the sixth full month after the date SSA finds you disabled.
  • You are eligible for Medicare after receiving SSDI benefits for two years.
  • Your disability benefits convert to retirement benefits at full retirement age. The benefit amount will stay the same.

SSDI Entitlement Requirements

  • Like Social Security retirement benefits, you must have earned enough work credits based on your total yearly self-employment income or wages. Also, you must have worked long enough and recently enough to qualify.
  • Generally, you are entitled to SSDI benefits with 40 work credits, 20 earned in the last decade. You need to make $1,640 for one credit as of 2023. Earning $6,560 in one year will give you the maximum number of yearly credits (four).
  • Monthly SSDI benefit amounts are based on your average earnings record. You can check your Social Security Statement for your earnings history and estimate monthly disability payments.

SSI at a Glance

  • General U.S. Treasury tax revenues finance SSI.
  • Monthly SSI payments are $914 per month for an individual and $1,371 per month for a couple, the maximum federal benefit rate in 2023. Some states supplement SSI benefits with an additional monthly sum.
  • In most states, SSI recipients automatically become eligible for health insurance under Medicaid.

SSI Eligibility Requirements

Unlike SSDI, SSI eligibility is not based on a person's work history. Instead, it's based on a claimant's financial need. The SSA determines eligibility by calculating an SSI applicant's income and resources. This includes how much you make and what you own, such as bank accounts or stocks.

  • Income: An individual adult's income must not exceed $1,913 per month, pre-tax, in wages, or self-employment income. A couple's income may not exceed $2,827 per month.
  • Resources: Resources are things you own and must not exceed $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for couples. The value of your home is not counted as a resource and will not disqualify you from receiving SSI. Vehicles are not usually calculated as a resource either.
  • Adults 65 and older, disabled or blind, are eligible for SSI if they meet other eligibility requirements. Also eligible are children under 18 with medical impairments severely limiting daily activities living in a low-income household.

Should you apply for SSDI or SSI benefits? Get Help from an Attorney

The Social Security Administration's rules and regulations can be confusing. Simply determining the disability program for which you may qualify is a daunting task. You may find yourself uncertain about the disability claims or application process. If so, a good first step is to speak with a Social Security disability benefits attorney near you. A disability lawyer can put you on the right track toward receiving benefits and protecting the financial future of you and your family members.

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