Comparing Social Security And SSI

Q: How is SSI different from Social Security?

A: Starting with a short answer, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security are completely different programs. A person can receive both if meeting the separate rules of each.

In no particular order, here are more differences between these two programs.

Work is at the core of all Social Security benefits. Specific work requirements vary with retirement, survivors or disability but the person whose Social Security number record is involved must have enough work or benefits are not payable. Financial need, not work, is at the core of Supplemental Security Income. Strict income and resource limits apply. Housing arrangements are also a factor in determining financial need.

Social Security includes retirement, survivors and disability benefits. Supplemental Security Income is for people over age 65, disabled adults and disabled children having limited income and resources.

When someone dies or receives Social Security, benefits are payable to eligible family members through that persons work record. SSI does not include benefits to family members but more than one family member can become eligible. For example, both husband and wife can receive SSI if each person separately meets the rules.

Social Security is funded primarily by payroll taxes paid by employee, employer and the self-employed. General revenues fund Supplemental Security Income, not Social Security taxes.

Social Security beneficiaries are eligible for Medicare at age 65 or after receiving disability for two years. SSI recipients do not receive Medicare but can become eligible for Medical Assistance through their state.

Social Security amounts are based largely on career earnings. Other income does not automatically reduce monthly amounts. SSI amounts are set nationally. The maximum monthly SSI in 2016 is $733 for an eligible individual and $1,100 for an eligible couple. Other income, including from Social Security, reduces these amounts although not all income counts.

Savings or other items of value have no impact on Social Security. For Supplemental Security Income, savings and other resources must stay below certain levels for benefits to continue.  In 2016, this level is $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for an eligible couple although not all resources count. For example, the home you live in does not count.

Again, a person can be eligible for both Social Security (retirement, survivors or disability) and Supplemental Security Income if the separate rules for each program are met. The two programs are completely different.

Learn more about Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at

At the homepage, click on the benefit tab and a dropdown box will appear showing the different benefits for your selection.

Many Social Security applications can be completed online. Speak to a SSA representative to apply for Supplemental Security Income. For either program, appointments can be made by calling the SSA national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or contacting your local office.