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SSI vs. SSDI Benefits: What is the Difference?

— October 27, 2021

If you are disabled and can no longer work, you may want to apply for SSI or SSDI benefits.

Individuals who are older, disabled, and unable to work can obtain financial assistance. Specifically, they can receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Many people are confused by these two assistance options and may believe they are the same thing. However, they have differences. Therefore, it’s important to understand more about SSI and SSDI to know what they entail.

What is Supplemental Security Income? 

SSI is a financial assistance program that is based on a person’s needs according to their income. It doesn’t consider a person’s work history and instead is given when there is a need for financial assistance. Individuals who qualify for SSDI are required to have limited income and under $2,000 in assets for a single person or under $3,000 for a couple. 

Individuals with disabilities who meet the income requirement can also receive Medicaid. Often, people who qualify for SSI can also get food stamps. Most people who obtain these benefits are women, as they collect Social Security as wives and widows or as retired/disabled workers.

What is Social Security Disability Insurance?

SSDI is earned through payroll taxes and comes from your years of working. The funds are acquired through FICA Social Security taxes and are contributed to Social Security. Therefore, the longer you spend in the workforce, the more you have in SSDI. However, individuals who want to obtain SSDI must be under 65 years of age and have earned a specific number of work credits in order to be eligible.

When a person with a disability obtains SSDI, their spouse and dependent children can receive a portion of those benefits. These are known as auxiliary benefits, but only adults can access SSDI disability.

If a person has become disabled, they will have to wait for five months to obtain their SSDI benefits. However, many people have a better chance of being approved from SSDI than SSI due to various factors. Speaking with a Social Security Disability lawyer is a good way to get all your questions answered and get help in securing your benefits.

How Do SSI and SSDI Differ?

As you can see, SSI and SSDI do share some similarities, but they are different. The criteria for qualifying for each is different, and the individuals who can obtain each have differences. Although both forms of financial assistance are available to people with disabilities, SSI is based on need due to having a very limited income and assets. It is also available to those 65 and older who are not disabled.

Elderly woman with hands folded in her lap; image by Cristian Newman, via
Elderly woman with hands folded in her lap; image by Cristian Newman, via

Meanwhile, SSDI is available to individuals with physical or mental disabilities who are unable to work because of their condition. SSDI benefits must last for at least 12 months.

SSI and SSDI are financed and administered through different channels as well. SSI is managed by the Social Security Administration, which was established in 1972. It was put in place to help provide financial assistance to older individuals, those with disabilities, and those with limited financial resources. Most states offer SSI as assistance in addition to federal assistance.

SSDI, on the other hand, can be traced back to 1956. It was instituted to provide benefits to workers who became disabled and rendered unable to continue working. Benefits that come from SSDI come from a Social Security Disability trust fund. Employers and workers pay toward SSDI through payroll taxes.

Even if Social Security requires significant medical evidence to support the disability claim, when it comes to the Social Security Administration, they use mostly the same medical criteria and the same processes to determine whether a person is eligible for SSI or SSDI. To make things even clearer, someone could collect both benefits. 

Bottom Line

If you are disabled and can no longer work, you may want to apply for SSI or SSDI benefits. Something important to note is that many applications for disability benefits are often denied. However, you have the right to appeal and can eventually have your application approved. It’s advised to consult with a Social Security disability lawyer who can provide you with valuable assistance.

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