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If you or someone you love has a disabling medical condition, chances are good that you have heard of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) benefits. Both of these programs offer financial benefits and health insurance to individuals who are disabled, and both are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, they are not the same.

But what is the difference between SSDI and SSI?  Among other things, eligibility requirements differ, as does the amount of assistance one can receive.  In this post, we are going to break down some of the major the differences between these programs. That way, you can understand whether or not you qualify and if it is worth applying.

Defining Both Programs Is the First Step

Before you can understand the difference between SSDI and SSI, you need to actually know what each program is and does. This is fairly straightforward.

What Is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance is a disability program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) aimed at helping disabled individuals with a qualifying work history, or who qualify under someone else’s work record.  “Credits” or “quarters of coverage” are earned by paying FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) taxes. See here for more information on what FICA taxes are. 

What Is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income offers financial assistance both to those with disabilities, to older adults, and to disabled children. However, SSI is limited to those in the aforementioned categories who also have minimal resources and income. SSI benefits are provided by the federal government and frequently bolstered by state programs.

What Are the Main Differences between SSDI and SSI?

Quite simply, it is who qualifies.

Eligibility for SSDI is determined by two main factors:

  1. An applicant must meet disability requirements
  2. An applicant must meet work credit requirements

In other words, SSDI is for disabled individuals with a sufficient, recent work history – either their own or that of their parents or spouse. Approval is based on “credits” or “quarters of coverage” accumulated from previous work.

On the other hand, eligibility for SSI is based on two main factors:

  1. Whether the applicant meets the age or disability requirements
  2. Whether the applicant meets the requirements set for limited resources and income.

SSI approval can benefit both disabled adults and children, and those over 65. However, to qualify, applicants must prove that they are below a certain income threshold and that their resources are limited. Often, someone who does not meet the work credit requirements for SSDI may be able to qualify for SSI.

Always remember, to be considered “disabled” according to the Social Security Administration and receive benefits, you must pass the SSA’s 5-step sequential evaluation process (for adults).

Other Differences to Know About SSDI and SSI

Who qualifies, of course, isn’t the only difference. Here are several of the biggest differences that you should be aware of:

Which Program Pays More?

Generally, SSDI pays more. In 2022, the average SSDI payment was $1,358. Meanwhile, SSI was only paying an average of $586 per month. For the year 2022, the maximum federal benefit rate for SSI is $841/month.  SSDI benefits are based upon the amounts of FICA taxes withheld.

Does the State Provide Any Extra Money?

States do not supplement SSDI payments. Many – but not all – states do supplement SSI payments with something called a “state supplement.”

What Kind of Insurance Do You Get?

Health insurance is vital to those living with a disability. Those who receive SSDI will be covered under Medicare, and possibly state Medicaid, too. SSI recipients are covered under Medicaid.

Can You Receive Past Due Benefits? 

Many people applying for SSI or SSDI benefits have been struggling with their situation for a while. Because of this, a common question is whether they can receive benefits for the time before they apply for either program.

This differs. For SSDI, past due benefits can be paid for up to one year before the applicant first applied, depending upon their established onset date and/or Date Last Insured. For SSI, benefits are not paid prior to the application date, unless a prior application is reopened. 

Can Family Members Receive Benefits on Your Account? (Auxiliary Beneficiaries)

Under SSDI, specific family members can be eligible for benefits if you become disabled: 

  • Spouse of disabled worker with either 1) a child under age 16 or a disabled child in his or her care or 2) if at least 62 years old, if married for at least one year (also applies to a divorced spouse if the marriage lasted at least 10 years)
  • Divorced spouse at least age 62 
  • Child of disabled worker who is either a minor (under age 18), high school student under age 19, or adult disabled before age 22. 

In total, your qualifying auxiliary beneficiaries in aggregate could receive up to 50 percent of the monthly benefits you receive. 

You can find more specific information about how qualifying works for each type of family member here.

Not Sure Which Program You Should Apply For?

Requirements can be confusing. If you have any questions about whether you would qualify for either of these programs, do not hesitate to reach out to Richard I. Feingold & Associates, P.C. for a free consultation. We aren’t paid unless you win – now that’s a win-win situation!

Get the help you need today.