What is the Difference Between SSI and SSDI?
Both the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs are overseen by the Social Security Administration. They provide monthly payments to disabled individuals meeting the disability and other eligibility criteria of the rules and regulations for each program. The programs are not, however, the same; and unless you know the differences between SSI and SSDI, your claim for benefits may be delayed or denied.
What is SSI?
Supplemental Security Income is a federal program paying benefits each month as a supplement to individuals with limited income and financial resources. The SSI eligibility guidelines limit benefits to people meeting either of the following criteria:
- Disabled or blind adults or children.
- Adults age 65 years of age or older.
SSI benefits are primarily intended to provide money each month to assist a person to meet basic needs, such as food, water, and shelter. It is a needs-based program, which means your application for benefits must show that your income does not exceed the maximum income level for the program and that the value of the assets you own do not exceed a certain amount.
What is SSDI?
Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, pays monthly benefits to people with medical conditions making them disabled and unable to work according to the Social Security Administration’s definition of “disability” for the program. You must have worked and paid Social Security taxes long enough to be eligible, and your inability to work must last or be expected to last for a year or more.
Social Security uses a system allowing you to earn work credits based upon your annual wages or the annual income earned from self-employment. You may earn up to four credits each year. The amount you must earn to receive a work credit changes each year, but it is currently $1,470.
Generally, you need 40 credits to be eligible for SSDI with at least 20 of them being earned in the 10-year period that ends in the year your medical condition first caused you to become disabled. You may qualify for benefits with fewer than the generally required number of credits depending upon your age, so you should discuss your situation with a knowledgeable disability lawyer to learn what you need to be eligible for SSDI.
Difference between SSI and SSDI
The existence of income and asset limitations that applicants for SSI must meet to be eligible for benefits stands as the primary difference between the two programs. Applicants for SSI must disclose most sources of income, including:
- Social Security.
- Private and public pensions and retirement plans.
Applicants must meet the financial requirements of the program, which means you must disclose all assets and income to the SSA, including:
- Income from employment.
- Social Security benefits.
- Income from pensions.
- Military retirement payments.
The reporting rules can be complicated. For example, you must report the value of any food or shelter provided to you by family members, friends, or others. You do not, however, have to report food stamps or the value of shelter you receive through a nonprofit organization.
Assets, including cash, that you own cannot exceed $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a married couple. The value of your home or vehicle owned for personal use are not included.
In contrast, SSDI is an entitlement program, which means your income and financial resources do not affect your eligibility as they would for SSI. Instead, you are entitled to apply for benefits if you have earned enough work credits and meet the program’s definition of “disabled.”
Some of the other differences between SSI and SSDI include the following:
- Benefits paid through the SSI program come from general tax revenues while SSDI benefits are funded by the disability trust fund you pay into as part of your Social Security taxes.
- SSI recipients are eligible for Medicaid while SSDI recipients may be eligible for Medicare depending upon how long their disability lasts.
- Some states supplement the benefits payable to individuals under the SSI program, but states do not supplement SSDI benefits.
Applying for the wrong program or submitting an application that fails to prove you meet the appropriate eligibility guidelines for a program would cause your application to be denied or, at the very least, it would result in delays. Considering that the application and review process for each program can take time, you may want to avoid mistakes that may require the resubmission of an application or the submission of additional documentation to support it.
Protect your rights by speaking with a disability lawyer!
There is too much at stake when applying for SSI or SSDI to risk costly errors or misinterpretation of guidelines and regulations. An experienced disability lawyer has the right knowledge of the disability programs to evaluate your situation and guide you through the application process starting with choosing between SSI vs SSDI.