How to Determine Whether You Qualify for SSI or SSDI

Do You Qualify? Find Out With A Free Disability Evaluation

  • STEP 1. Case Info
  • STEP 2. Contact Info

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. 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 Social Security Disability Insurance 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.

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.

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.