What is the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are both federal programs administered by the Social Security Administration that provide financial assistance to people with disabilities.  The chief difference between the two programs is that SSDI requires the disabled individual to have paid Social Security taxes long enough to qualify as insured.  In contrast, SSI does not require that the disabled individual has paid Social Security taxes, but instead requires that the disabled individual demonstrates financial need.

SSDI – Social Security Disability Insurance:

To qualify for SSDI, a disabled worker must have accumulated enough work credits.  Work credits are based on total yearly wages and workers can earn up to four per year.  To qualify for SSDI, a worker must have at least 20 to 40 work credits, depending on the worker’s age at the onset of disability.  In addition, 20 of those work credits must have been earned in the last 10 years prior to the date the worker became disabled.  However, these work credits do not need to be consecutive.  Additionally, the required number of work credits is different for workers under the age of 31.  SSDI benefit amounts are calculated based on how much the disabled person has paid in Social Security taxes.  More information on work credit requirements can be found  here.

SSI – Supplemental Security Income:

In contrast to SSDI, SSI is a need-based program.  No work credits are required for SSI eligibility.  This means that disabled individuals who have never worked, including children, may qualify for SSI.  However, to qualify for SSI, a disabled person must have both limited income and limited resources.  SSI benefit amounts are not calculated by how much the disabled person has paid into Social Security, but rather by how much income the disabled person receives.

Limited Income:

For the purposes of determining SSI eligibility, the Social Security Administration considers both earned an unearned income.  In addition, the Social Security Administration also considers as income any food or shelter the disabled person receives for free or for less than fair market value.  The Social Security Administration will also count the income of the disabled person’s spouse or parents, if the disabled person lives with a spouse or parents.  Certain income, including food stamps and tax refunds, is not counted.  More information on income can be found here.

Limited Resources:

In addition to having limited income, a disabled person must also have limited resources to qualify for SSI.  The current resource limits for SSI are $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple.  The Social Security Administration counts cash, property, and anything else which could be changed to cash and used for food and shelter as resources.  Some resources, such as the disabled person’s home and a single vehicle, are considered exempt and are not counted toward the maximum resource values.  More information on resources can be found here.

Since SSI eligibility is based on a disabled person’s income and resources, it is possible for a person to qualify for both SSDI and SSI.  For example, if a person has enough work credits to qualify for SSDI but their monthly benefit amount is less than the maximum allowable income for SSI, the person may receive SSI benefits in addition to SSDI.  To help determine which benefits you may be eligible for, the Social Security Administration provides a Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool.

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