Which Americans Are Getting These Checks?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers multiple programs that provide individuals with monthly financial assistance. Typically, the individuals that can benefit are out of work for a variety of reasons. Some recipients can no longer work due to their disability or even their age. Whatever the reason, it’s important to understand the options if you’re ever in a situation where you need your income supplement. Two programs that the SSA offers include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Explaining What You Need to Know About SSDI and SSI Benefits

There are both similarities and differences between these two assistance options offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Different eligibility factors influence whether or not someone can qualify for either SSDI or SSI. However, the programs are similar in that they are intended to benefit certain individuals dealing with hardship.

Understanding SSDI

You may have seen Social Security taxes being taken out when checking your pay stubs or your income documents during tax season. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is funded by payroll taxes. The ability to qualify for this program depends both on one’s disability and work history. This is because benefits are determined by finding the average income that the applicant was earning while working. The current state of their finances does not influence benefits. SSDI provides assistance to people that have to stop working because their disability has gotten too severe.  After receiving benefits from SSDI for two years, recipients can become eligible for Medicare.

Understanding SSI

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) helps low-income individuals. With this, benefits are determined by the applicant’s current financial situation. General tax revenues fund this program. Therefore, the applicant’s work history does not matter in this program. Individuals that are either blind, disabled, or 65 years or older can qualify.

Highlighting the Main Difference Between SSDI and SSI

Now that you have a general understanding of each program, let’s highlight some of the main differences.

  • How benefits are determined: SSDI calculates benefits using the average earnings from when the individual was working. Meanwhile, SSI considers the applicant’s current financial situation.
  • Where the funding comes from: SSDI is funded with the taxes people pay as W2 employees. Meanwhile, SSI receives funding from the revenue of general taxes.
  • Healthcare: Recipients of SSDI are able to apply for Medicare after two years of getting assistance. Meanwhile, low-income individuals that can qualify for SSI are usually naturally eligible for Medicaid.
  • Eligibility Requirements: SSDI is available to individuals that have a qualifying disability and work history. Meanwhile, age, disability, and current income are considered with SSI. 

How Much Assistance Do Both Programs Provide?

As we stated previously, SSDI and SSI calculate the assistance an applicant gets differently. In addition to that, your exact situation influences how much assistance you may get from SSDI or SSI. Current recipients need to make SSA aware if there are any changes to their current circumstances. This includes changes in income level, living situation, and current resources. These changes need to be communicated because they influence the benefits the recipient is getting. 

While we cannot tell you exactly how much you can get from each program, we can give you a general idea of what may be possible. It’s important to keep in mind that assistance rates are likely to change each year when considering cost-of-living adjustments (COLA). 

Benefits Possible with SSDI

In 2024, the maximum amount a recipient of SSDI can receive is $3,822 per month. Whereas, reports show that the average recipient gets a monthly amount of $1,537. The SSA uses a specific formula in order to determine the monthly assistance that an applicant can get. The applicant’s previous average indexed earnings (AIME) and primary insurance amount (PIA) are used in the formula. 

Therefore, the higher the applicant’s lifetime earnings are, the greater chance they have to earn more assistance with SSDI. While the 2024 figures above give you a general idea of what you can get with SSDI, the numbers are likely to change each year.

Benefits Possible with SSI

SSI doesn’t consider an applicant’s previous earnings. Instead, applicants receive benefits based on their current need for financial help. Therefore, their countable income is taken into consideration when calculating benefits. Countable income is a combination of earned income (wages or other employment earnings), in-kind support (someone else provides food and shelter), and unearned income (unemployment benefits, pensions, social security benefits). In addition to that, the federal benefit rate (FBR) is also factored in. SSI takes the FBR and minuses the applicant’s countable income. 

The FBR is the most amount of monthly assistance an individual can get. In 2024, recipients can get up to $943 per month. Whereas, couples receiving assistance can get up to $1,415. However, keep in mind that just like SSDI these numbers are reconsidered yearly based on cost-of-living adjustments or better known as COLA’s. 

Applying for Benefits from SSDI

Below is a step-by-step outline of what the SSDI application can look like:

  • Step 1: Collect necessary documents – The application requires that the individual seeking assistance provide supporting documents. These include personal information and records, such as your birth certificate, Social Security number, and work history. In addition to that, you need to provide documents that detail your disability. These can include your medical records and details describing your disability. These documents are absolutely necessary if you want to apply for SSDI benefits.
  • Step 2: Completing an application: Submitting an application can be done in a few different ways. You can apply by making an appointment to go into a Social Security office near you or by calling the SSA. However, the online portal on the SSA website (www.ssa.gov) may be easiest. The website makes it easy for applicants by detailing each step along the way. The best part is that it can be done from the comfort of your own home and on your own time. 
  • Step 3: Receive your decision: After your application is completed, the SSA looks it over to determine if you’re eligible. Typically the processing time can take roughly three to five months. 

Applying for benefits can be intimidating. The process can take a while, especially the waiting period to hear back from the SSA. However, the process isn’t difficult to do and is worth the time spent if you’re able to get the help that you need. Finally, if your SSDI application is denied, you have 60 days to submit an appeal to have your application reviewed again.

Apply for Benefits with SSI 

Applying for benefits with both programs is completely free! The process to apply for SSI is similar to SSDI. You need to provide documents about your personal situation. After the SSA reviews your application, you receive a notification of whether you’ve been approved or not. If you’re in need of financial assistance, don’t wait to get the help that you need!


SSDI and SSI provide financial assistance to people with different needs. SSDI is intended for individuals that have a qualifying job history and disability. Recipients of SSDI receive benefits based on the income they were earning while they were able to work. Meanwhile, SSI is intended for individuals that are low-income and either 65 years or older, disabled, or blind. With SSI, benefits are calculated based on the recipient’s current financial situation.

Although these two programs have many differences, the main similarity is how assistance is delivered. Recipients of both programs receive cash assistance monthly. With SSDI, the most amount of assistance a recipient can get each month is up to $3,822. Whereas the most amount of assistance an individual can get with SSI is up to $943 and for couples it is $1,415. In order to apply for assistance or to get more information about either program, visit the SSA website!

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