Comparing Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Written by Ari Parker Updated: Wednesday, January 17, 2024

There sure are a lot of acronyms to keep track of when it comes to federal assistance programs, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time. This article will help you understand the eligibility requirements and benefits of SSDI and SSI. 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two federal assistance programs that provide financial help to people with disabilities:Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Let’s explore the details and differences.

Key takeaways:

  • SSDI is a benefit that requires you to have a work history for eligibility. 

  • SSI does not have work-related eligibility requirements since SSI is an income-based financial program. 

Definition of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI provides financial assistance for people who are unable to work due to a disability. It has work-related eligibility requirements and benefits are based on how much you’ve earned in your lifetime.  Your financial assistance is based on the contributions you made to Social Security while you were working. 

Definition of Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI helps people with low income or limited resources who are blind, aged 65 and older, or have a qualifying disability. The government provides financial assistance through a monthly payment funded by general tax revenue. In 2024, the monthly maximum SSI benefit is $943 for individuals and $1,415 for couples. 

Eligibility Requirements

Both SSDI and SSI have a list of eligibility requirements a person must meet before they can begin receiving their benefits. Most qualifications for SSDI are work-related while most qualifications for SSI are income-related.

SSDI eligibility requirements

  • Disability status: People with a qualifying disability as defined by the SSA are eligible for SSDI. This disability must also impede a person from performing their work duties for a year or longer.

  • Recent work history: Applicants must have worked recently, and for long enough to receive “work credits.” The number of work credits you need to receive SSDI varies based on your age, but generally, if you’ve worked for half the time since turning 21, you will have enough. You can learn more about work credits here

  • Can’t be receiving retirement benefits: To be eligible for SSDI, you cannot be receiving retirement benefits when you apply for the program. If you are already receiving retirement benefits, you may not meet the requirements for SSDI.

SSI eligibility requirements

  • Limited income and resources: Applicants must have limited income including wages and Social Security benefits. SSI program eligibility also limits the collective value of assets and resources a person owns. 

  • Age, blindness, or disability: Beneficiaries must be 65 or older, be blind, or have a qualifying disability that lasts at least one year and is accepted by the Social Security Administration (SSA). 

  • US citizenship or qualifying non-citizen status: Applicants must be citizens of the US or belong to other categories of qualified non-citizens.

SSDI vs SSI Benefits

SSDI gives recipients a monthly monetary benefit based on work history and other personal factors while SSI sets a monthly maximum for all people qualified for the program. Read below for more detail. 

SSDI benefits summary

  • Monthly benefits: Benefits are based on your work history and other personal factors. If a person makes more money, they’ll likely receive lower benefits than a person who earns less.

  • Factors that reduce or change the monthly benefits: 

  • If you earn income from a job, you aren’t eligible for SSDI, because one requirement is that you have a disability that prevents you from working.

  • If you receive workers compensation and disability benefits from a state or local government, you could receive a reduced monthly benefit.

  • If you are able to work again, your benefits could end.

  • If your medical condition changes, your benefits could also change depending on the situation.

  • Waiting periods for benefits: 

  • In general, you can expect a 5-month waiting period after submitting an application for SSDI benefits.

SSI benefits summary

  • Monthly benefits: In 2024, recipients of SSI can receive $914 per month as an individual and $1,415 as a couple. 

  • Factors that reduce or change the monthly benefits: If a person gets income from other sources (retirement income, pensions, earned income, unemployment benefits), they can receive lower payments. Life events, like a change in your health status, living conditions, income status, family status, or student status can also affect how much you receive. 

  • Waiting periods for benefits: If the SSA accepts your application, you can expect to receive benefits the month after submission or the month after meeting eligibility requirements, depending on your specific situation. 

Can you receive both SSDI and SSI?

Yes, you can receive both SSDI and SSI benefits if you have limited income and resources as well as the right level of employment history. 

SSDI and SSI Medicare and Medicaid qualifications 

One more thing to understand about SSDI and SSI is how they work with Medicare and Medicaid.

Because Medicaid provides health insurance coverage for people with low income and resources, anyone who benefits from SSI automatically qualifies for Medicaid.

Anyone receiving SSDI qualifies for Medicare after receiving benefits for 24 months. If you have ALS, however, there is no waiting period, and you’re eligible for Medicare immediately. 

If you have more questions about how you may qualify for Medicare with SSDI, our licensed Medicare Advisors are here to help with free, personalized advice tailored to your unique needs. Get in touch with us by scheduling a free consultation or giving us a call at (855) 900-2427.

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