While both the SSI and SSDI programs offer benefits for qualified disabled individuals, the requirements and income limitations for each are quite different. Not only are the limitations and prerequisites different, but applying for the wrong one or missing the qualifications can result in significant amounts of frustration and wasted time.
Social Security Disability Insurance & Supplemental Security Income
One of the primary differences between Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, and Supplemental Security Income, known as SSI, is that Social Security Disability Insurance is only available to workers that have not only become disabled after working but who have also built up enough work credits to qualify. Supplemental Security Income is available as a disability benefit to those who have either never worked, or who are low to no income individuals who have not and will not earn enough credits for Social Security Disability Insurance.
Often people do not distinguish between SSDI and SSI when talking about Social Security disability benefits, but they do need differentiation since they are two entirely different government programs. They are both administered and managed by the Social Security Administration, and they both use the same guidelines in determining eligibility on a medical level, but there are some important differences to note.
Social Security Disability Insurance, SSDI
Social Security Disability Insurance is the Social Security insurance that is deducted from your paycheck via federal payroll taxes. Social Security Disability Insurance can offer benefits to eligible recipients because they have worked and contributed to the program in a meaningful way. The contributions are made via the FICA taxes. An SSDI recipient must be younger than 65 and have contributed a predetermined number of “work credits” to the program before they can be considered “insured”.
The spouse and minor dependents of the disabled person can receive partial benefits based on the disabled person’s earnings record, just as the benefits for the disabled are calculated. However, there is a five-month waiting period from the date of disability until the benefits kick in. After two years on SSDI, the recipient can also qualify for medicare. Approval rates for SSDI claims tend to be higher than for SSI claims, on average.
Supplemental Security Income, SSI
Supplemental Security Income is a need-based program that is funded by a general tax fund, and not from the Social Security trust. SSI is referred to as a means-tested program so that it is not based on work history, but strict financial need. SSI applicants will need to demonstrate that they possess less than $2,000 in assets for an individual, or $3,000 for a couple, and show that they have a limited income. In general, if the applicant qualifies for SSI, they will also qualify for food stamps. Depending on the location and the state benefits, they may also qualify for state-aid like cash assistance. Qualified applicants will receive an amount dependent on their location and their regular income paid on the first of the month.