SSDI Or SSI: What’s The Difference?

Social Security administers two different disability programs and sometimes the programs are mistaken for each other. So, what is the difference between SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) and SSI (Supplemental Security Income)? Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences of these two federal benefit programs.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program that requires work in a job where the Social Security tax was deducted from an individual’s wages to become eligible for benefits.  The earnings requirement can vary from as little as 1 ½ years for a younger worker to 10 years for an older worker. In addition to work, the individual must be unable to work because of a disabling condition. The condition must be expected to last for at least a year or to end in death.

Supplemental Security Income pays disability benefits to adults and children with low income and resources. (Additionally, this program also pays benefits to those 65 or older who also have low income and resources.) The definition of disability is the same for both programs—a medical condition that causes the worker’s inability to work and is expected to last at least a year or to end in death. There is no work required for SSI, but it does have requirements about income and resources.

Income is money you receive such as wages, Social Security benefits and pensions. Social Security doesn’t count all of the income that an individual receives to determine eligibility for SSI. We don’t count home energy assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps), shelter from private nonprofit organizations, the first $20 of most income and the first $65 from work and half the amount over $65. To be eligible, a single person cannot have income more than $735.00 per month and a couple cannot have more than $1,1.00 to be eligible in 2017.

Resources that we count in deciding whether you qualify include real estate, bank accounts, cash, stocks and bonds. Resources must be under $2000 for a single person and under $3000 for a couple to qualify. Social Security does not count everything you own when determining eligibility. We don’t count the home you live in and the land it is on, life insurance policies with a face value of $1500 or less, burial plots for you and your immediate family and up to $1500 in burial funds. Usually we can also exclude your car.

SSI rules require that you live in the United States or the Northern Mariana Islands and be a U. S. citizen or national. In some cases, noncitizen residents can qualify for SSI.

So far, we have said that both SSDI and SSI have the same definition of disability, but SSDI requires some work where the FICA tax was paid before eligibility and SSI does not. Although SSI does not have a work requirement, it does look at a person’s income and resources to determine eligibility. Both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration. Now, let’s look at some additional differences between the two programs.

Under SSDI, there is a five month waiting period before any benefits can be paid. There is no waiting period before benefits begin for SSI.

SSDI pays benefits to eligible spouses and children of the disabled worker. SSI does not pay family benefits, but can pay a disabled child. Two disabled adults who are married can qualify for SSI as a couple.

SSDI beneficiaries qualify for Medicare (the nation’s health care program) after receiving benefits for 24 months. SSI beneficiaries are eligible for Medicaid (state health care program).

SSDI is financed through the tax paid by individuals while they worked. Payments are made from the Social Security Trust Fund. SSI is funded by the general tax revenues.

Social Security’s two disability programs have differences, but they both provide disability benefits to the most vulnerable among us. Which program covers you depends on how much FICA covered employment you paid before becoming disabled. About 69% of the private sector has no long term disability insurance, so Social Security’s programs provide critical income for many American households.