What are the differences between SSDI and SSI?

Since the acronyms for Social Security Disability Insurance and (SSDI) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are so similar, many people confuse these two programs. However, they are distinct from one another, with different objectives. If you’re entitled to disability compensation, it’s important that you apply for the correct program to avoid wasting time in pursuit of a benefit you aren’t qualified to receive.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

The differences between Social Security disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income

SSDI provides benefits to individuals who have paid into Social Security via payroll deductions on their previously earned income. Program participants must have a disability that is anticipated to last for at least a year or result in death. Key characteristics of this program include:

  • Benefits are provided to eligible individuals regardless of their assets or unearned income—interest, investments, or a spouse’s income. However, income from work is strictly limited for those receiving Social Security disability payments.
  • Disability benefits are subject to a five-month waiting period, starting from the date of disability.
  • Medicare coverage for health benefits is subject to a two-year waiting period from the date of entitlement (the month a disabled individual became entitled to receive Social Security disability benefits).
  • The monthly Social Security disability payment amount is based upon covered earnings—the earnings on which a disabled worker paid Social Security taxes. These covered earnings are averaged, and a complicated formula is applied to calculate the monthly benefit.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)​

SSI helps disabled individuals who cannot qualify for SSDI benefits, either because they have never been employed or because they haven’t worked for a long time. This is a need-based program, typically for individuals 65 years of age and older with very little income. Key characteristics of this program include:

  • SSI is a means-tested benefit program, requiring participants to meet a strict set of financial requirements.
  • Claimants may start receiving benefits the same month they file—there is no waiting period.
  • Medicaid health coverage begins as soon as SSI benefits are approved.
  • The monthly payment amount is determined by subtracting countable income from the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR), which is the maximum federal monthly SSI payment amount. Those with countable income over the FBR are not eligible for benefits.

Help With Your SSDI or SSI Benefits

If you qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits, an experienced disability benefits attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact us today by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

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Joshua Worley
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Roswell, NM Social Security and Veterans Disability Lawyer