Social Security Disability Insurance
Written by: Bruce L. Weider | 8.10.2023

What's The Difference Between SSI And SSDI?

Many people have heard of SSI and SSDI. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but to the United States Social Security Administration, and the attorneys who work to secure disability benefits for people who are unable to work due to their medical conditions, the two designations have distinct meanings. What’s the difference between SSI and SSDI? An experienced Social Security disability lawyer from Bruce L. Weider, PC can explain the key differences and how they may impact your claim. Consider contacting us at (734) 485-0535 to learn more.

What Is SSDI?

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a disability insurance program by the federal government. This program provides monetary benefits to people with a qualifying work history, which can be from their own employment or through a spouse’s or parent’s work history.

To qualify for SSDI benefits, you (or your qualifying family member) must have worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes on your earnings. You must also meet the SSA’s strict definition of disability.

SSDI and Work History

An individual’s work history and payment into the Social Security system have a direct impact on that person’s ability to qualify for SSDI benefits. The individual must have accumulated enough work credits to qualify for benefits. The number of credits needed depends on the person’s age when the disability began. Most people need 40 credits with 20 of those earned within the last ten years at onset of disability. However, those who developed a disability at a younger age may qualify with fewer credits.

One credit is equal to a certain amount of income, which change each year based on SSA rules. In 2023, one credit is earned for each $1,640 in earnings, up to four credits a year.

Family Benefits

In addition to providing benefits to individuals with disabilities, the SSDI program also provides benefits for the following individuals related to the SSDI recipient:

  • Widows or widowers
  • Surviving spouses with disabilities
  • Surviving or divorced spouses who were receiving benefits for caring for the individual’s children
  • Children
  • Grandchildren

There are different rules concerning each of these categories of claimants. A lawyer from Bruce L. Weider, PC can review your situation and determine if you might be eligible for SSDI benefits.

What Is SSI?

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a financial assistance program for adults and children with qualifying disabilities with limited assets and income, according to the SSA. The primary residence is not typically counted as a resource in eligibility calculations; on the other hand, there are also special rules that apply when substantial assets are shared among members of the applicant’s household. Both of these considerations can complicate attempts to estimate an individual’s eligibility.

Yearly Income Limits

To qualify for SSI benefits, an individual must have limited income and other financial or material resources. This limit changes each year based on SSA rules. The amount also depends on the source of income. The monthly income limits in 2023 for SSI include:

  • $1,913 in gross wages for an individual
  • $1,913 in self-employment income for an individual after deducting allowable business expenses
  • $934 for income from pensions or gifts
  • $2,827 in gross wages or self-employment income for a couple
  • $1,391 for income from pensions or gifts for a couple

State Programs and Senior Beneficiaries

After retirement age, some senior citizens may qualify for SSI even if they do not suffer from a disability. Individuals 65 or older who have income and resources below the applicable financial limits may apply for Social Security benefits under SSI rules. The SSI program is often supplemented by state programs, but each state has own unique rules.

Similarities Between SSI and SSDI

There are several things these two programs have in common. The most important similarity is that disability is defined in both programs as total disability that prevents the individual from doing work or engaging in substantial gainful activity or performing any previously completed work because of their medical condition that is terminal, has lasted for at least a year, or is expected to last for at least a year. Both programs also provide financial benefits to recipients on a monthly schedule, and their application processes are similar even though the eligibility requirements are different.

Key Differences Between SSI and SSDI

Given the similarities not only in program names, but in their functions, many people seeking Social Security benefits find themselves asking, “What’s the difference between SSI and SSDI?”

Some of the most important differences between SSI and SSDI are:

  • Eligibility for SSI depends on having limited income and resources, while eligibility for SSDI relies on having a sufficient number of work credits and recent employment history.
  • There is a five-month waiting period before an applicant can begin receiving SSDI benefits, but there is no waiting period for SSI benefits.
  • SSI recipients automatically qualify for Medicaid insurance, while SSDI recipients qualify for Medicare after 24 months.
  • SSDI benefits are converted to SSI retirement benefits when the recipient reaches full retirement age.
  • The maximum amount of SSI is lower than that for SSDI benefits.
  • Dependent benefits are available for SSDI recipients’ family members but not for SSI recipients’ family members.

These differences can have a profound impact on an individual’s benefits and eligibility.

Can You Receive SSI and SSDI?

Under certain circumstances, an individual can receive SSI and SSDI benefits at the same time. This situation can apply if someone currently has limited income and resources, and they also have a qualifying work history. Alternatively, someone individuals may be able to receive SSDI benefits from a qualifying family member, while receiving SSI independently on the basis of disability.

Distinctions in Eligibility Requirements

Applicants need to keep in mind that the eligibility requirements are different for these two programs. For example, SSI requires an applicant to establish that they have limited income and resources. If someone exceed these limits, they may be denied SSI, but could still be approved for SSDI. Likewise, if an individual has sufficient work history, they may be approved for SSDI but denied SSI because they exceed the income or resource limits.

Concurrent Eligibility

If an applicant is awarded both SSDI and SSI benefits, their SSI may be reduced if their income exceeds the SSI limit. A Social Security disability lawyer may submit applications for both programs to ensure the client receives all benefits for which they qualify.

Get Help With Your Social Security Disability Benefits Application

If you have ever wondered, “What’s the difference between SSI and SSDI?” this may have been because you were curious about your eligibility for one of these programs. An experienced lawyer from Bruce L. Weider, PC can review your situation and help you understand the application process for Social Security disability benefits. Contact us today at (734) 485-0535 to learn more.

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