The Difference Between SSI And SSDI

You may have heard about social security benefits in general but don’t know what they are or how they differ from one another. Take the cases of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which are both federal programs aimed at helping disabled individuals. 

Apart from sounding strikingly similar and providing cash benefits to persons who are qualified to receive these payments, there’s nothing else that keeps them alike. If you think you or a loved one may qualify, consider the following points:   

Different Types of Disabilities 

 As mentioned, two federal programs provide payments for person with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are defined as those who have the following conditions:

  • Physical Disabilities:  This type of impairment covers persons who have limited mobility or physiological and functional impairments that may be intermittent, chronic, progressive or stable, visible, or intangible.  
  • Visual Disabilities: Visual impairments may be caused by several factors, which may include congenital issues, accidents, and specific illnesses. 
  • Hearing Disabilities:  Persons who can’t hear well or suffer from hearing loss are under this category.  
  • Mental Health Disabilities: Like physical disabilities, mental health disabilities may take many forms. Anxiety and depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, are few of the many forms of mental health disabilities. 
  • Intellectual or Learning Disabilities: People who suffer from intellectual or learning disabilities have difficulties learning specific tasks or processing information. These, in turn, make learning and communication highly challenging for these individuals.
  • Neurological disabilities:  A neurological disability is attributed to disorders that affect the brain and nervous system that result in the loss of mental and physical functions.  

The Social Security office has a strict definition of disabled persons, which may not include those who have partial disabilities. Better check the agency’s website to know the qualified applicants.      

Now that you have an idea on what may be categorized as a “disability”, let’s start by describing the two terms before moving on to the difference between SSI and SSDI

What Is SSI?

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI), as its name suggests, is a needs-based program that, apart from disability, also looks at the income and assets of an applicant, as part of its approval process. That being said, anyone who’s facing serious financial difficulties may qualify, regardless if the person has work history or not.   

Pre-qualifying requirements include assets worth no more than $2,000 if single, not over $3,000 for couples, and very little to no income. In few instances, this may supplement an elderly person’s retirement earnings. 

Apart from SSI, low-income individuals who qualify for this benefit are also eligible for Medicaid assistance. These persons are likely to qualify for other government programs such as food stamps. The amount to be disbursed depends on the state, as well as the average income that an applicant receives on a regular basis.   

Asian young blind person woman with headphone using smart phone with voice assistive technology for disabilities persons in workplace with computer and braille display on table.

What Is SSDI?

To qualify for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), one has to have a work history that spans a few years and has made specific contributions to the Social Security trust fund – the main funder for this type of benefit.   

Applicants should be below 65 years old and have accumulated a good number of work credits. A disabled person who has received an SSDI benefit will be entitled to Medicare assistance after two years.    

Auxiliary SSDI benefits may include the disabled person’s spouse and children, who must be over 18 years old, to qualify.  

Like the Social Security retirement benefit, the amount applicants receive will be hinged on their earnings. In some occasions, an applicant may be eligible for taxable SSDI benefits.

The Main Differences Between SSI and SSDI

Eligibility: The SSI is open to disabled persons over 65 years old, with limited to no income. The SSDI qualifiers should be disabled but should have earned specific work credits. In addition, SSI is based on need, while SSDI is based on income. 

Provision of benefits: An SSI beneficiary will receive the amount on the 1st month when the claim was filed. An SSD beneficiary will receive on the 6th month following the onset of the disability, as determined by the Social Security Administration (SSA). 

Average monthly benefit: The SSI claimants may get about $577, while SSDI beneficiaries could get $1,128 (according to SSA website as of Nov 2020). 

Required documents: The SSI will ask for proof of income, assets, and living arrangements. The SSDI applicants will have to submit recent wage information and work and earnings history.

Health insurance: The SSI beneficiaries automatically qualify for Medicaid. The SSDI beneficiaries are eligible for Medicare benefits after two years, except for persons with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). 


Perhaps because of the difference between SSI and SSDI, disabled individuals who are qualified, for instance, those who have work history and limited income, can receive both benefits.

Interested applicants may apply online, though, persons applying for a child below 18 years old and a senior citizen over 65 years may be required to personally appear at the Social Security office. Have your medical records ready for a more seamless application process.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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