SSI and SSDI Compared

Submitted by rsg on

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has 2 different pathways for those who are eligible for disability benefits. These are the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) schemes that have some similar and some different requirements in order to qualify.

The major difference between the two disability benefits is that SSI eligibility is based on age/disability and the amount of income and assets the claimant has, while eligibility for SSDI is determined by extent of the disability and accumulated work credits.

This article will compare and contrast the different requirements for SSI and SSDI.

Who Can Qualify For SSI and SSDI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federally funded program that offers monthly payments to people who have limited income and few resources. To get SSI you need to match one of these requirements:

  • be 65 years or more;
  • be partially or totally blind;
  • have a medical condition that stops you from working and is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.

You may qualify for SSI if the things you own are worth no more than $2,000 per person or $3,000 for a married couple living together. Not everything is counted when a decision is made about your eligibility for SSI. For example, the house you own if you live in it and a car you own isn’t counted either. However, cash, bank accounts, stocks and bonds are counted when the SSA is making a decision about your SSI claim.

To qualify for SSDI you have to match the SSA definition of being disabled. This means your disability won’t allow you to work for at least 12 months. You must be over age 18 to qualify as you will only qualify if you have accumulated sufficient work credits up to the time you have become disabled.

If you haven’t reached 24 years of age, you might be eligible for SSDI if you have earned 6 work credits in the 3 years up to the start of your disability. From the ages of 24 to 31, you may be eligible if you have credits for working 50 percent of the time from the age of 21 until the date you became disabled. For example, if your disability began at 25 years old, you will require credits for 2 years of work (8 credits) between 21 and 25 years. If you are over 31 years normally you should have accumulated at least 20 credits during the 10 years prior to the start of your disability.

How Do the Medical Requirements for SSI and SSDI Differ?

The SSA typically uses the same medical criteria for both SSI and SSDI and the same process to determine if the claimant has a disability and is eligible to receive SSDI or SSI. The SSA uses its Blue Book lists to find the disability and from the facts found in the listing determines if the applicant qualifies for either SSI or SSDI.

What makes the two disability benefits different is that SSI is based on the claimant’s income and assets so is basically for someone with limited means while eligibility for SSDI is based on the number of work credits the claimant has accumulated while working.

SSI and SSDI Compared

How Does the Application Process Differ For SSI and SSDI?

You may apply for SSI online if you are an adult with a disability. SSI applications are not available online for people applying for a child under age 18 with a disability or a non-disabled senior aged 65+. These individuals must visit their local Social Security office or call

You may apply for SSDI benefits online at any age and you can also apply by calling your local Social Security office.

What Are The Payment Differences Between SSI and SSDI?

Both workers and their employers cover the cost of the program through payroll taxes. Benefits are then paid out of the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund.
Amounts are paid based on the claimants earning history. In 2021, the estimated average monthly SSDI benefit is $1,277.

SSI is handled by the SSA, but Social Security taxes do not fund it. It is paid out of general revenues that the Treasury Department collects to run the U.S. government. This benefit is a maximum of $795 in 2021.

Other Differences Between SSI and SSDI

A person with SSDI will automatically qualify for Medicare after 24 months of receiving disability payments but anyone diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [ALS] is eligible for Medicare immediately.

In most states, an SSI recipient will automatically qualify for Medicaid. When benefits begin for an SSI claim is the first complete month after the date the claim was filed or, if later, the date found eligible for SSI. For the SSDI claimant the benefits begin after the 6th full month of disability.

If the SSDI isn’t sufficient because you don’t have enough work credits you may be able to claim SSI as well. An attorney can help you by evaluating your position so you claim your entitlements to either SSDI or SSI or both if you are eligible to do so.

Get Help With an SSI or SSDI Claim

If you aren’t sure which you qualify for, an attorney may be able to help. One of the facts that the SSA takes seriously when making a decision about a disability claim is the proof you provide showing your disability will not allow you to work for at least 12 months. Your attorney can offer a free case evaluation and decide if you have sufficient evidence to prove that you are unable to work in any capacity for at least 12 months. Fill out a Free Case Evaluation today to get connected with an independent, participating attorney who subscribes to the website.

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