Is RSDI the Same as Social Security Disability Benefits?

Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (RSDI) is a form of benefits the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) pays to individuals who have retired, the surviving dependents of certain deceased workers, and some disabled individuals.

Some conflate RSDI with other forms of Social Security disability benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). However, RSDI income is not the same as these programs. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between RSDI vs SSDI and RSDI vs. SSI.

Understanding RSDI Benefits

What is RSDI? The acronym refers to the three types of individuals who may receive benefits through this program:

  • Retirement: Eligible retirees and their dependents may receive RSDI benefits.
  • Survivors: If a worker pays into Social Security and earns sufficient credits, their surviving dependents may be eligible to receive RSDi Social Security benefits if they pass away.
  • Disability: RSDI Social Security benefits is a blanket term that technically encompasses disability benefits. However, the fact that someone is receiving RSDI benefits doesn’t necessarily mean they are receiving SSD benefits.

To be eligible for RSDI in general, an individual must have earned a certain amount of work credits and paid into the Social Security system through their taxes. To receive disability benefits, an applicant must show they have a genuine disability as defined in the SSA’s Blue Book.

As of April 2022, retired workers received average monthly benefit checks of $1,666.49 through RSDI. Factors that can affect one’s RSDI benefits include:

  • How many years an individual worked
  • An individual’s average monthly earnings
  • Whether an individual retires early
  • The specific types of benefits an individual is receiving
  • Whether an individual receives other forms of income, such as a pension or workers’ compensation benefits

In addition, the SSA makes periodic Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) to ensure that the amount of money individuals receive in benefits keeps pace with inflation.

Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI)

Again, although someone who receives RSDI benefits may also receive SSDI, they are not the same.

An applicant must show they have worked, paid into Social Security through their taxes, and accrued sufficient work credits to be eligible for SSDI. They must also show that, due to a legitimate disability, they are unable to continue working and earning an income. SSDI benefits serve to help them cover the cost of basic needs like housing and food.

The way the SSA calculates SSDI benefits is somewhat similar to the way it calculates RSDI benefits. In both instances, the SSA accounts for an individual’s work history to determine how much they may be eligible to receive. The SSA will also account for an applicant’s average indexed monthly earnings (AIME) when making these calculations. An AIME represents a person’s average monthly earnings over the course of the highest-earning 35 years of their life, with their earnings adjusted for inflation.

The SSA uses an individual’s AIME to calculate their primary insurance amount (PIA). A person’s PIA is how much they would receive in RSDI if they retired at a typical retirement age. However, the SSA may adjust a person’s PIA if they retire early or if they delay retirement.

The process of calculating SSDI benefits is somewhat different. For instance, if a person didn’t work a full 35 years before becoming disabled, the SSA will account for the years up to their disability when determining their AIME. In addition, the SSA usually won’t adjust a person’s PIA amount based on the age at which they begin receiving benefits.

Key Differences between RSDI and SSDI and SSI

The following breakdown explains the basic purposes of RSDI, SSDI, and SSI. It can help you better understand the key differences between these programs:

  • RSDI: A general Social Security program offering benefits to qualified retirees, the surviving dependents of qualified workers, and disabled individuals.
  • SSDI: A program offering financial assistance to those who’ve worked in the past and can no longer do so because of their disabilities.
  • SSI: A program offering financial assistance to those who can’t work due to their disabilities, regardless of whether they have a significant work history.

Eligibility requirements for RSDI vary somewhat depending on the specific type of benefits one is receiving. For example, if someone is hoping to receive survivors benefits, whether they’re eligible will depend on the deceased’s work history.

Someone who applies for SSDI must show that they have earned a certain number of work credits to be eligible for benefits. On the other hand, the SSA primarily accounts for financial need when determining whether an applicant is eligible to receive SSI.

The application process may also differ among the programs. For RSDI, retirees and surviving loved ones may apply. For SSDI, former workers who are now disabled apply. Applicants for SSI tend to be low-income, disabled individuals.

Remember, though, RSDI encompasses SSDI and SSI. That’s the basic nature of the relationship between the programs. SSDI and SSI aren’t technically RSDI, but they are part of it.

Common Misconceptions

It’s important to understand the differences between these programs if you plan on applying for them. For example, because SSDI is part of RSDI, you may mistakenly believe that they are one and the same. Thus, you might apply for retirement or survivors benefits when you actually mean to apply for SSDI. Doing so could prevent you from receiving benefits in a timely manner.

Understanding the differences between the programs simplifies the process of gathering documentation to strengthen your application. For example, if you know work history plays a critical role in your eligibility for SSDI, you may gather evidence proving you’ve earned sufficient work credits. However, if you’re applying for SSI, you may instead focus on gathering documentation proving you have a significant financial need.

What is RSDI Income? Essential Information

Now that you’re familiar with RSDI’s meaning and how it differs from other benefits programs, you may feel more confident applying for benefits. That said, because the process is complex, you may nevertheless also benefit from hiring a professional to guide you through the process. Get started today by taking the Free Case Evaluation to speak with a lawyer accepting cases in your area.