What Is the Difference Between Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
June 16, 2020
If you have recently become disabled due to an accident or illness, you may be thinking of applying for Social Security benefits. Or, your initial application may have been denied for reasons you don’t fully understand. Perhaps you failed to include all the necessary medical information required by the Social Security Administration (SSA). You may even have applied for the wrong type of benefits because the application and instructions were so confusing. Before you go further, it’s important to understand the meaning of Supplemental Security Income vs. Social Security Disability Income (SSDI vs SSI).
Below is an overview of the two programs and the differences between them. However, whether you’re appealing a denial or applying for the first time, you should consult an experienced disability lawyer. A knowledgeable attorney will explain your rights under the various Social Security programs and help you receive the benefits you deserve.
Two types of Social Security disability benefits – SSDI vs SSI
There are two basic categories of disability benefits available from the Social Security Administration. Before you apply, you need to determine which type you are eligible for.
The two types of benefits are Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Basic Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are designed for workers who have a long-term disabling injury or illness. These benefits are also known as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (RSDI). Applicants must meet several requirements in order to be eligible for these benefits.
Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI) are need-based programs for disabled children and adults with limited income. As with SSDI benefits, applicants need to meet certain qualifying criteria.
Who qualifies for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits?
Every SSDI applicant must meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of disability. A person is considered disabled if they:
- are unable to do the work they did before because of a medically diagnosed physical or mental condition
- cannot adjust to other work because of the medical condition(s)
- have a condition that has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year, or to result in death.
To qualify, the individual must have a disability that is total and long-term. Those with temporary disabilities do not qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
Does my work history affect my Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits?
In addition to meeting the SSA’s medical criteria, applicants must qualify based on their work history or that of a parent or spouse. They must have accrued a certain number of work credits based on annual wages or self-employment income.
The number of work credits an applicant needs to qualify for disability benefits depends on their age when they become disabled. Generally, an individual needs 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years prior to becoming disabled.
However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.
What medical conditions qualify for SSDI benefits?
The SSA publishes a list of qualifying medical impairments along with specific criteria for each impairment.
If your condition is on the list and you meet the specified criteria, you will qualify for benefits providing you meet the other SSA requirements.
However, there are two other ways to qualify for disability benefits.
If the SSA considers your condition equivalent in severity to a listed impairment, you may be eligible for benefits.
Additionally, applicants whose conditions are not on the SSA list or considered medically “equal” to one of the listed impairments may also qualify if they have “limited functional capacity.” This means the person’s medical condition prevents them from performing their previous work or functioning in other job capacities.
Who qualifies for Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI)?
SSI benefits are designed for disabled adults and children who have limited income and assets.
To qualify, an individual must meet the following requirements:
- Be 65 or older or be blind or disabled
- Have limited income and resources
- Be a citizen or a national of the U.S. or an alien who meets certain requirements
- Reside in one of the 50 States, District of Columbia or the Northern Mariana Islands
- Children of military parent(s) assigned to permanent duty anywhere outside the U.S.
- Certain students temporarily abroad
Other factors that may affect eligibility include marital status, monthly income from work and the amount of money in the person’s bank account.
Does work history affect my eligibility for Social Security Income (SSI) benefits?
A key distinction for SSDI vs SSI is that unlike Social Security Disability Income benefits (SSDI), SSI benefits are not based on your prior work or a family member’s prior work.
What medical conditions qualify for SSI benefits?
Individuals age 18 or older who are applying for SSI benefits based on a disability must meet the same general medical criteria that applies to SSDI benefits (see above section).
For children from birth to 18, there is a separate definition of disability under SSI. The medical standard is based on the severity of the disability rather than the specific condition.
In addition, SSI recipients are eligible for Medicaid health care coverage and food assistance in most states.
As detailed above, understanding SSDI vs. SSI programs can be complex, with many requirements, rules and exceptions. And, a large percentage of applications are denied, even for applicants who meet the eligibility criteria. A qualified disability lawyer will help you receive the benefits you’re entitled to – with no up-front fees or unexpected costs.
Social Security law is complicated, but finding the right lawyer is simple.
Call 1-800-CALL-SAM today for a free, no-obligation, remote consultation from the comfort and safety of your home.
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