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The Difference Between SSDI and SSI

The Difference Between SSDI and SSI


When you file for Social Security Disability benefits, you might quickly realize that the Administration actually operates two distinct programs. Should you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? What is the difference between the two?

First, let’s begin with the similarities between the two programs. Both SSDI and SSI are operated by the Social Security Administration, and both provide cash assistance to people with various disabilities who cannot work. Medical eligibility for both programs is based upon the same set of standards. However, aside from the medical portion, eligibility for each program works in a different way.

SSDI was created to provide a safety net for those who work, have become disabled at some point, and have accumulated a certain number of work credits. If you have contributed enough to the program, via payroll taxes over a certain number of years, then you are considered “insured” in the event of a disability that prevents you from working. Benefits can begin five months after you first became disabled. Your monthly benefit amount will be based upon your earnings record, and your dependents will be eligible for partial payments as well (auxiliary benefits). After two years on the program, you become eligible for Medicare.

SSI was created to provide for those who have never been able to work, or have a limited work record that precludes them from qualifying for SSDI. The program often covers adults who have yet to accumulate the required work credits for SSDI. It is a “means tested” program, meaning applicants are subject to a limited income, and own less than $2,000 in resources ($3,000 if married). SSI benefits begin on the first of the month in which you submit your application, and you become immediately eligible for Medicaid.

Most adults will apply for SSDI, rather than SSI. But since work record is the primary difference between the two programs, as far as qualification goes, some adults with a limited work record will only qualify for SSI. Of course, that also means you must meet the strict income and asset requirements.

Many Social Security disability cases are complicated, and denials can be confusing. If you have been denied benefits, give us a call. We can take a look at your application, the reasons for denial, and your personal circumstances. Then together we will decide upon the best way to appeal your application for benefits.