How You Can Determine Whether You Qualify for SSI or SSDI

Each year millions of Americans are faced with disabling conditions that prevent them from being able to work. The resulting lack of income can result in a serious financial crisis. Oftentimes the only way to make ends meet is by applying for Social Security Disability benefits. There are many conditions that qualify for disability benefits.

If you have become disabled and are wondering whether you qualify for either the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs, the following information can help.

The Differences between SSDI and SSI

In understanding whether or not you qualify for the SSI or SSDI program, the first thing you need to do is understand the differences between the two. In short, SSDI requires you to have enough work credits while SSI is on a financial needs basis.

Both SSI or SSDI require your condition to meet the SSA's disability standard for your specific condition. This means that both benefits require you meet the Blue Book listing for the condition you are experiencing.

SSDI is an insurance program that pays out in the event that you suffer a long-term or permanent disability. You pay into this program when you pay taxes out of your paychecks. Each quarter you work, you earn a credit. In order to obtain Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, you must have earned enough credits to qualify and you must be determined to be disabled by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

SSI is a needs-based disability program that is run by the SSA. Even if you have not earned any work credits, you may qualify for SSDI if the SSA decides that you are disabled and unable to work. You do, however, need to meet certain income restriction guidelines in order to qualify for this program.


When applying for SSDI benefits, there are three things you must look at to determine whether or not you qualify. First, you must determine if you have a disability that meets the SSA's guidelines and prevents you from performing substantial gainful activity. If not, you will not qualify for SSDI. If you do have a disabling condition, the condition must be a long-term or permanent disability. If your condition is not expected to last one year or more, you will not qualify for benefits. The third thing you need to look at is whether or not you have enough work credits. If you do have a qualifying disabling condition that is expected to last at least twelve months and you have earned enough work credits, you will likely qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.


When applying for Supplemental Security Income benefits, you must be disabled according to the Social Security Disability guidelines and your condition must be expected to last at least one year or more. You must also meet certain income limits. If your household income exceeds the limits set forth by the SSA, you will not qualify for SSI payments even if you are technically disabled under the SSA's disability guidelines.

How Do I Know If I Get SSI or SSDI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) represent two federal programs that provide financial assistance to people that meet the guidelines established by the federal government.

Although the two programs act as a safety net to help Americans who struggle with finances, the similarities between the two programs stop there.

The primary difference between SSI and SSDI is the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines SSI eligibility based on age, disability, and limited financial resources. On the other hand, SSDI eligibility is based on the confirmation of a disability combined with the accumulation of a certain number of work credits.

Because of the many differences between the two federal safety programs, you can qualify for just one of the two programs.

Although the SSA manages both SSI and SSDI, the two programs operate under significantly different financial requirements. SSI is a means-tested program, which requires applicants to meet certain income and financial resources thresholds.

The SSA considers SSDI to be an entitlement program that is available for any American that has paid into the Social Security system.

Applicants that qualify for SSI immediately receive Medicaid benefits. Because Medicaid represents a joint healthcare program that is administered by state and federal government agencies, many Americans apply for SSI to receive the comprehensive healthcare provided by Medicaid.

SSDI beneficiaries receive Medicare coverage two years after they receive approval to receive benefits. Since Medicare does not provide as comprehensive of healthcare coverage as Medicaid, Medicare beneficiaries have the option to buy private Medigap healthcare coverage to bridge the gap between the two federal programs.

Decision Making Guide – SSDI Qualifications

Answer these questions about SSDI qualifications to determine if you are eligible for social security disability benefits:

Do you have an injury or condition that has left you unable to work for 12 months or more?

If you are able to work, you will not be able to qualify for disability benefits. Social Security Disability Insurance protects worker if they are unable to work due to unforeseen circumstances. To prove that you have a condition that leaves you unable to work, you will have to consult the SSA Blue Book. This is a list of conditions that and the medical criteria for each condition that must be met in order to qualify for SSDI.

Do you have the required work history to qualify for disability benefits?

In order to qualify for disability benefits, you must have the required work history for your age. This is determined by the amount of work credits that you have. For each paycheck that you receive, a portion of that will be taken out as social security taxes. If you have paid enough into the system, you will earn work credits. The amount of work credits that you need varies by age. If you are under 24 years old, you will need 6 work credits (equivalent to 1.5 years or work). If you become disabled at age 60, you will need 38 work credits (9.5 years of work).

If you have answered yes to both of these questions, you may qualify for disability benefits. Fill out your free evaluation to get the application process started. If you answered no to either of these questions, continue reading to learn more about SSI qualifications.

Decision Making Guide – SSI Qualifications

If you are unable to qualify for disability benefits, it is still possible to qualify for SSI. Answer these questions to see if you qualify:

Do you have an injury or conditions that will keep you out of work for 12 months?

If you do not have a condition that will keep you out of work for an extended period of time, you will not qualify for disability benefits.

Do you have a condition that will keep you out of work, but do not have the required work credits to qualify for SSDI?

If you will be out of work for 12 months, but do not qualify for disability benefits, you may be able to qualify for SSI. The medical qualifications for SSI and SSDI are very similar, however SSI is a needs based program. Therefore there are income and asset levels that need to be met in order to qualify for SSI.

For a single person, your countable assets cannot be over $2,000. In addition, your monthly income must stay below $750. For a married couple, asset levels increase to $3000 and monthly income increases to $1,200.

Determining If You Have a Qualifying Disability

If you think your condition may qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits, you should discuss your condition with your doctor. Your doctor will need to provide a written statement when you submit your claim for Social Security Disability benefits, so getting your doctor's opinion prior to filing a claim is a good idea. Your doctor can advise you as to whether or not your particular condition qualifies you for SSI or SSDI payments and whether or not they are willing to support you in your disability claim.

You can also use the SSA's Benefits Eligibility Screening Tool (BEST). This online tool allows you to gain a general understanding of your SSI or SSDI disability eligibility. While the SSA's BEST program cannot provide you with a definitive answer regarding your disability eligibility, it can help you gain insight as to your chances of being approved for Social Security Disability benefits.

Qualifying For SSI At Retirement Age

SSI is also available to those that have paid into the social security system and have now reached retirement age. Retirement age usually falls between 62 and 65 and if you have the required work credits, you are able to qualify for monthly SSI payments. Once you are of retirement age, you will not need a medical condition in order to qualify.

Consider Hiring An Attorney

When deciding whether or not to apply for Social Security Disability benefits, you may also want to consider discussing your disability case with a qualified Social Security Disability attorney or advocate. These professionals deal with disability claims on a daily basis and will be able to provide you with guidance and advice regarding your specific disability claim.

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