What Is the Difference Between Social Security Disability (SSDI) and SSI?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are both programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income are both important parts of the social safety net because they provide monthly income to people who are too disabled to work for a living.  However, there are several important differences between SSDI and SSI both in terms of qualifying for benefits and in terms of the specific benefits that you will receive.

Differences between SSDI And SSI

While both SSDI and SSI use the same definition of “disabled,” there is an important difference when it comes to qualifying for benefits.  SSI is a means-tested, need-based program so only lower income individuals can qualify for benefits. You must have individual resources less than $2,000 or less than $3,000 as a couple, as well as a limited income in order to qualify for SSI benefits.  SSDI, on the other hand, is a form of disability insurance and is not based on financial need.

When you work at a job and pay Social Security taxes, some of that money goes towards the SSDI program. The tax contributions act similar to insurance premiums, and once you have worked enough and earned enough “work credits,” you are eligible for disability benefits. The amount of work credits required to get SSDI benefits varies depending upon your age at the time when you become disabled.

Differences in Benefits

The qualifying criteria is not the only difference between SSDI and SSI. There are also differences in the benefits that you receive.

When you qualify for SSI, you may receive a maximum benefit of $721 per month as of 2014. This maximum benefit is subject to change, with the most updated payment amount available on the SSA website.  The specific amount of money you receive will depend upon whether you have any income coming in at all.

SSDI benefits, on the other hand, are based on your average wages when you were working.  Typically, SSDI benefits are higher than the benefits available from SSI although this is not always the case.  Because the benefits can be higher, some people who have not worked such as spouses or disabled adult children may prefer to receive SSDI benefits based on a spouse or parent’s work record rather than receiving SSI benefits. Your attorney can help you to determine if you may be eligible for SSDI benefits based on a family relationship.

Individuals who receive SSI income may also receive Medicaid benefits to cover their health costs while those on SSDI will become eligible for Medicare benefits after 24 months.

To learn which program is right for you or for help applying for disability benefits from the SSA, call Latimer Stroud, LLP today.

Suzanne Latimer

Suzanne Latimer

Suzanne graduated cum laude in 1992 and was admitted to practice in Massachusetts that year and New York the following year. After graduation, Suzanne worked for twelve years as a solo practitioner, concentrating in the areas of Family and Matrimonial Law. Since 2005, Suzanne has served as Managing Partner at Latimer/Stroud, LLP.
Suzanne Latimer