Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Both programs offer cash benefits for disabled individuals, however it’s important to know which one is best for you.

The biggest difference between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and the ability to qualify for either resides in an individual’s work history. SSDI is for people who have worked a job and accumulated enough work credits where as SSI is available to low-income individuals who have never worked or have not accumulated enough work credits to be eligible for SSDI.

On the surface, SSDI and SSI can seem almost the same. Both programs are managed by the Social Security Administration, and medical eligibility is considered in a similar manner, however there are some drastic differences you need to be aware of.

What Really Is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

SSDI is financially supported through payroll taxes. Recipients of SSDI are considered “insured” because they have worked for a period of time and made contributions to the Social Security trust fund in the form of FICA Social Security taxes.

SSDI applicants must be over the age of 18 and under the age of 65, and accumulated a certain number of “work credits”. Any individual receiving SSDI also extends benefits to their spouse and children dependents who are eligible to receive auxiliary benefits.

It’s important to note that there is a five month waiting period for SSDI benefits from the Social Security Administration and the amount you receive is dependent on your earnings record.

The good news is that the approval rates for SSDI are higher than those for SSI. This is likely because SSDI recipients probably had a higher income and insurance coverage allowing them to have seen a doctor for their medical issue. It can be quite difficult to receive SSDI without seeing a doctor regularly and judges/claim examiners give more credibility to individuals who have an extensive work history.

What Really Is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Supplemental Security Income is a program that is needs based according to an individual’s income and assets. Unlike SSDI, SSI is funded by general fund taxes and not from the Social Security trust fund.

Also unlike SSDI, SSI has nothing to do with work history. To qualify for SSI, you must have less than $2,000 in assets (or $3,000 for a couple) along with a very minimum income.

Individuals who are disabled that qualify under the income requirements for SSI are also able to receive Medicaid from the state they live in. They also generally qualify for food stamps and the amount of benefits they receive is tied to where they live and the amount of regular monthly income they get. With SSI, there is not a 5 month waiting period and you can receive benefits quickly.

How To Apply for Either

You can apply for either SSDI or SSI at your local Social Security Administration office. However, it is generally recommended that you enroll the help of a lawyer or legal advocate when submitting your application. This generally results in a higher chance of approval and the opportunity to receive more in disability benefits.

Please remember, do not be discouraged if your application is initially denied. It’s possible to re-apply and eventually get approved to receive benefits. Again, it’s highly recommended to have a lawyer or legal advocate help you with submitting your application to maximize your chances of receiving benefits!

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31 Responses
  1. Paul Giglio

    I would like an attorney to pick up my case and push it forward thru the appeal process. I am disabled and I need to help.

  2. Joe Gomez

    Ssi is barely keeping me afloat and would like to know if I qualify for SSDI, hope to hear from your office soon,
    Thank You!

  3. Sheila l

    I am already retired and receiving a federal disability income. Am I eligible to receive additional income from SSDI as well?
    Will my 40% federal retirement be reduced if I receive SSDI?

  4. Lori Hamrick Trista Hamricks mother

    I would like to talk to someone about my daughters ssi and how to get things for her started. She has little vocal support.

  5. Linda Baggett

    I have copd plus other stuff and in debt because brother has cancer and behind on bills !!! I’ve retired but won’t start getting checks till July and to comply to rules I had to cut hours and COPD getting worse !!! Did get Medicaid Thank God but might not pay for COPD MEDICINE ALREADY HAD TO GIVE UP OXYGEN

    1. National Disability Benefits

      Please go to https://www.ssa.gov/onlineservices/ to see what services you may qualify for at this time.

    1. National Disability Benefits

      Please go to the Social Security Administration office or https://www.ssa.gov/onlineservices/ to see the status of your case.

    1. National Disability Benefits

      Please start your application for benefits at https://www.ssa.gov/onlineservices/ or go to the local SSA office.

    1. National Disability Benefits

      You may want to contact both HUD and SSA for assistance. Please use the following links to get started: https://www.hud.gov/states and https://www.ssa.gov/

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