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Understanding the Differences Between SSDI and SSI

Retiree on SSDI

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are federal programs that assist disabled individuals financially. Each program provides money to individuals who successfully submit an application while meeting the federal government’s definition of a disabled person. However, different requirements must be met in order to qualify for financial benefits, depending on the program to which the applicants submit their request. Here’s a closer look at the similarities and differences between SSDI and SSI.

What Is Social Security Disability Insurance?

  • Social Security Disability Insurance is intended for individuals who have worked for at least ten years and contributed to the Social Security trust fund during that time. Their contributions are collected through FICA Social Security taxes, which are taken out during payroll allocations. SSDI is an entitlement program, so no income or asset requirements are in place.

How Do You Qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance?

In order to qualify to receive SSDI benefits, the applicant must meet the following requirements:

  • They must have contributed a specific amount of FICA taxes.
  • They must have worked a certain number of years, depending on their age.
  • Their disability must meet the federal government’s specifications.

The Social Security Administration uses a chart that specifies how many years an applicant must have worked as well as how many work credits the individual must have earned in order to qualify for SSDI benefits. SSDI applicants must wait five months after becoming disabled before they can receive benefits.

Each work credit is equal to a specific dollar amount as determined by the Social Security Administration. The value of a work credit in dollars is open to change from one year to the next. If applicants do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, they should be able to qualify for SSI since there is no work requirement.

Many SSDI recipients also qualify for the following benefits:

  • Their dependent children and spouses can receive partial benefits, known as auxiliary benefits.
  • Once applicants have received SSDI for 24 months, they are eligible to receive Medicare.

What Is Supplemental Security Income?

Supplemental Security Income is based solely on need, and the level of need is determined by looking at the applicant’s income and the monetary value of assets. The program is designed to provide funds for individuals who are not in a position to obtain them on their own due to disabilities, blindness, or age-related infirmities. SSI sources its money solely through general fund taxes, which means that none of the money comes from the Social Security trust fund.

How Do You Qualify for Supplemental Security Income?

If an applicant qualifies for SSI, benefits are sent on the first of each month. Since this program is based on financial need, an individual’s work history is not considered during the application process. In order to qualify for SSI, three specific requirements must be met:

  • Applicants must have a limited income that is quite small. Benefits are reduced by any source of income the applicant receives.
  • They cannot possess assets that are worth $2,000 or more. If a couple is applying for SSI, the asset restriction is increased to $3,000 or more.
  • They must meet the federal definition of what it means to be disabled.

Most SSI recipients also qualify to receive the following types of benefits:
Food stamps, the value of which is based upon the amount of monthly income they receive as well as the place where they reside. Medicaid from the state in which they live

Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income are managed by the Social Security Administration. On average, recipients of SSDI collect a higher monthly sum than do individuals who receive SSI. In both cases, applicants must meet specific requirements in order to qualify for monetary benefits.


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