Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance are both federal programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provide financial assistance to individuals with disabilities. While they share the goal of providing support to individuals who are unable to work due to a disability, there are significant differences between the two programs.

What is SSDI?

SSDI stands for Social Security Disability Insurance. It is a federal program administered by the Social Security Administration that provides financial benefits to individuals who are unable to work due to a disability. SSDI is designed to offer income support to individuals who have a significant work history and have paid into the Social Security system through payroll taxes.

What is SSI?

SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income. It is a federal needs-based program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provides financial assistance to eligible individuals who have limited income and resources and are disabled, blind, or aged 65 and older.

This does not happen in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is based on an individual’s work history and contributions to the Social Security system, SSI is not tied to employment history. Instead, it is a program designed to provide financial support to individuals with disabilities who have low income and limited assets.

Eligibility Criteria of SSI

To qualify for SSI, applicants must meet certain criteria, including being disabled, blind, or aged 65 and older, having limited income below the SSI income limits, and having limited resources below the SSI resource limits. The SSA considers various factors, including income from work, other sources of income, and living arrangements when determining eligibility for SSI benefits.

If approved for SSI, individuals will receive monthly cash benefits to help cover basic living expenses, including food, clothing, and shelter. In some cases, SSI recipients may also qualify for additional benefits, such as Medicaid healthcare coverage.

Eligibility Criteria of SSDI

To be eligible for SSDI benefits, applicants must meet certain criteria. They must have a qualifying disability that meets the SSA’s definition of disability, which includes having a condition that prevents them from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA) and is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. Additionally, applicants must have earned sufficient work credits based on their age and work history.

If approved for SSDI, individuals will receive monthly cash benefits to help replace lost income due to their disability. They may also qualify for other benefits, such as Medicare coverage, after a waiting period.

Amount Benefits

The amount received in SSI is $914 per month for an individual and $1,371 per month for an individual who has an eligible spouse in 2023. The benefits received in 2023 in the SSDI program can go up to $3,627 per month. 

What is the application process for SSI and SSDI benefits

The application process for SSI  and SSDI benefits involves several steps. Here is a general overview of the process for both programs:

  • Determine eligibility: Before applying, it’s important to determine if you meet the eligibility criteria for SSI or SSDI. SSI is based on financial need and limited resources, while SSDI requires a significant work history and payment of Social Security taxes.
  • Gather necessary documents: Collect the required documentation to support your application, including identification documents, medical records, employment history, and financial information.
  • Complete the application: You can apply for SSI or SSDI benefits online, by phone, or in person at your local Social Security office.
  • Submit supporting evidence: Along with the application, submit any relevant medical records, test results, and other evidence that demonstrates the nature and severity of your disability and how it affects your ability to work.
  • Medical evaluations: The SSA may schedule a consultative examination to further evaluate your condition if additional information is needed. They may also request medical records from your healthcare providers.
  • Application review: The SSA will review your application and supporting documents to determine your eligibility for benefits. This process may take several months, and you may be asked to provide additional information or attend interviews.
  • Notification of decision: Once a decision is made, you will receive a notice informing you of whether your application has been approved or denied. If approved, the notice will include details about your benefit amount and when payments will begin.

SSI vs. SSDI: Which is right for you?

When determining whether SSI (Supplemental Security Income) or SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) is right for you, there are a few key factors to consider such as:

  • Financial Considerations: SSI benefits are based on financial need, so if you have limited income and resources, SSI may be more appropriate. SSDI benefits, on the other hand, are based on your work history and earnings, so if you have a strong work history and have paid into Social Security, you may be eligible for SSDI.
  • Benefit Amounts: SSI benefits are set at a federal maximum monthly payment, which can vary each year. The actual benefit amount may be reduced based on other income or assistance. SSDI benefits are based on your average lifetime earnings and can vary from person to person.
  • Medical Eligibility: Both SSI and SSDI require medical evidence to support your disability claim. However, the disability criteria may differ slightly between the two programs.   

Some individuals may be eligible for both SSI and SSDI, receiving a combination of benefits. However, other individuals may not. 

Need Legal Help? Contact a disability lawyer today

If your SSI or SSDI benefits are denied, it can be a frustrating and disheartening experience. However, it’s important to remember that a denial does not necessarily mean the end of your claim. Understand the reasons for the denial and look for any specific issues that need to be addressed. 

This will help you determine the best course of action moving forward. File an appeal within the designated time frame. The denial notice will provide instructions on how to initiate the appeal process. A disability attorney may guide you through the appeals process, help gather necessary evidence, and present a strong case on your behalf.