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SSDI Vs SSI: What's the Difference?

Last updated: March 28, 2023

Sometimes people confuse Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) with Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These are two distinct programs that are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to provide disability benefits to disabled individuals all across the United States. 

These programs provide monetary benefits to blind and disabled people. Aspiring applicants for disability benefits need to know the difference between SSDI and SSI to understand which of the two programs is right for them. 

Work credits are required for SSDI, whereas financial requirements are the basis for SSI. Social Security disability insurance and SSDI disability insurance have different financial eligibility requirements.

If you are a disabled veteran looking to apply for assistance from the VA, read our article on the importance of hiring a VA disability lawyer when applying for VA disability benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance Explained

As a result of their contributions to the Social Security trust funds throughout their employment, the Social Security Administration provides Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits to workers if they become disabled, blind, or suffer from a serious disease at any time. As a result, they cannot work. 

According to the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, your contributions can either come from your income or the income of your parents or spouse. The SSA can also use your income record to dispense SSDI benefits to your dependents.

The severity of the disability suffered by the individuals, the number of work credits they have, and their history of employment are the determining factors of their SSDI benefits. To be eligible for SSDI benefits, one should fulfill the following requirements. 

  • The applicants must have paid the required taxes under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA)
  • They meet the SSDI's work credit requirements
  • They suffer from disabilities that meet the SSA's definition of disability
  • Their disabilities make working for a minimum of twelve months nearly impossible.

The work credits qualification requirement for SSDI for people who become disabled is having six work credits before they become 24 years old, and if their age is more than 24 but less than 31 years, this work credit requirement goes up to 12 credits.

The minimum work credit requirement for SSDI eligibility is 20 within the previous ten years if you are more than 31 years old. SSA's rules require applicants to be workers who have become blind or disabled or disabled adults from an early age to be eligible for SSDI disability benefits.

Depending on your Social Security income record, you will receive monthly disability benefits. When you cannot work because of a disability and are seeking SSDI assistance, take a look at our article on how to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Supplemental Security Income Explained

Individuals with limited income and resources, whether adults or children, who are elderly, blind, or disabled, may receive cash assistance through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The Federal Government uses a portion of general tax revenues to finance SSI payments. A portion of the federal benefit is complemented by a supplemental benefit paid by many states. 

Sometimes, state supplemental payments are combined with the SSA's Federal SSI payments to ensure the beneficiaries receive one monthly check. Payments are made separately in other states because they administer their programs independently. The SSA requires you to meet financial requirements and have a disability that prevents you from working to qualify for SSI benefits. 

Benefits from SSI can be received even if you have no or little work experience. The case reviewer must see that you have a low income and limited resources when you file an SSI disability claim.

Differences Between The SSDI And SSI Programs

Once you understand that SSI and SSDI are distinct programs, you must know what makes them different. The following are the various features that distinguish the SSDI and SSI programs.

Past Work History

Work credits are required for SSDI, whereas limited income and the lack of resources determine SSI. Additionally, SSDI requires applicants to stay off the job due to disability for at least a year to qualify, while there is no such requirement for SSI benefits. 

As a result of a disability or a serious health condition, such as cancer, SSDI can provide benefits to workers who were previously able to work full-time. Generally, a younger individual under 30 who has yet to earn enough work credits will find it difficult to qualify for SSDI benefits because SSDI is for people who have worked full-time for many years.

Workers are eligible for SSDI if they have worked long enough to qualify under the program. Individuals with low incomes who cannot qualify for SSDI benefits due to either not working or not earning sufficient work credits can become eligible for SSI disability benefits.

Age Of The Applicants

Regarding the age at which one can apply for these programs, SSI is more flexible since it does not consider the claimant's age. The SSA offers SSI benefits to people of all ages who can meet their eligibility criteria. Since age is not a determining factor for SSI, SSI beneficiaries range between infants and retired individuals (65 years old) who are disabled. 

Age eligibility for SSDI, on the other hand, is different and somewhat complicated due to the work credit requirements. Although any disabled person over 18 years of age and under 65 can be eligible for SSDI benefits, this eligibility is subject to the claimant's work history.

Income And Resources

Income and resources are another difference between the SSI and SSDI programs. A person can qualify for SSI if they have limited income and resources but cannot qualify for SSDI if they have such limitations. Since SSI considers the needs of the applicants, it has income restrictions.

Eligibility Criteria

The main eligibility criteria for SSDI eligibility are meeting Social Security's disability criteria, being "insured," and making FICA contributions on the earnings of you or your spouse or your parents. An applicant for SSI must have a disability and be on a limited income and resource basis per Social Security's eligibility criteria. A person who has worked full-time for a long time is eligible for SSDI. Due to the lack of work credits, SSDI is often not accessible to individuals under 30.

Health Insurance Coverage

In most states, Medicaid is automatically available to people on SSI as a health insurance program federally and state-funded to assist low-income people. Federal income maintenance payments are provided to certain children, the aged, the blind, and the disabled who qualify for them. 

A state can determine what services are available under Medicaid under the law. On the other hand, someone receiving SSDI benefits after two years automatically becomes eligible for Medicare. SSDI beneficiaries can get the following under Medicare coverage:

  • Insurance coverage for hospitals
  • Coverage for supplemental medical expenses
  • Medicare Advantage
  • Prescription drug benefits 

Monthly Payments Under SSDI And SSI

An individual receiving SSI in 2023 will receive a maximum of $914 and a couple of $1,371. Neither countable income deductions nor state supplements are considered when calculating this amount. To cover rising living costs, these are increased each year. These same benefit amounts may not apply to all eligible claimants. 

The year 2023 saw an increase of 8.7% in Social Security Disability Insurance payments received by SSDI beneficiaries. The average amount that SSDI pays to disabled individuals is now $1,483, and the maximum SSDI benefit amount one can get every month in 2023 is $3,627 monthly. SSDI benefits recipients with a spouse and at least one child are $2,616.

When Do Payments Begin?

You may be eligible to receive SSDI benefits payments before your application date. On the other hand, once you file a claim for SSI, you can begin to receive payments a month after you apply, and the SSA determines you to be disabled. In the case of SSDI, you may be eligible to receive payments for up to one year before your application date.

Chances Of Approval

Generally, a higher percentage of applicants are approved for SSDI than for SSI. In most SSDI cases, SSDI claimants get more medical treatment than the ones who qualify for SSI. This is why SSDI claimants have less difficulty in proving their disability in comparison with SSI claimants. On top of that, SSDI claimants with longer employment histories are subject to favorable claim outcomes than those without.

The SSA has two main assistance programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income, that ensure monthly cash benefits for disabled individuals and people unable to work. Although many terms and concepts are common across the two assistance programs, several key features that differentiate SSDI and SSI have been described in detail above. 
Different scenarios may lead people to become injured, disabled, or unable to work and earn income.

If you want to know the difference between disability and SSI, visit our page about it. Check out the rest of our resources on disability Help if you find yourself in need of assistance. For people who have been in a car accident due to no personal fault, read our blog post on understanding the car accident insurance claim process.

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Zoey Appleton
Zoey has worked with Cheri for years and has been creating the best articles not only for Disability Help but for our readers. Her job hits close to home for she has a brother with special needs. She hopes to see science and technology pave the way for a better life, with Disability Help to cover it and share it with those that need it.
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