What Is the Difference Between SSI and SSDI?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are Social Security income programs for disabled people. SSI is for people with limited resources, whereas SSDI is only open to those who have enough Social Security work credits. Some people are eligible for both programs.
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Brandon Renfro, Ph.D., CFP®, RICP®, EA
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- Published: March 6, 2023
- Updated: June 7, 2023
- 6 min read time
- This page features 13 Cited Research Articles
- Edited By
- SSI is a program available only to people with limited assets and monthly income.
- SSDI is an entitlement program available to anyone with enough Social Security work credits and a disability that prevents them from working.
- If your SSDI payments are low and you don’t have other income, you may receive both SSI and SSDI at the same time.
The Social Security Administration offers two disability benefit programs to disabled Americans. While Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance both require the applicant to be considered disabled by the definition set by the Social Security Administration, they have slightly different eligibility requirements. The programs are also funded differently, with SSI funded by general tax revenue and SSDI funded through payroll taxes.
What Is Supplemental Security Income?
The Supplemental Security Income program aims to help disabled Americans, specifically those with limited income and resources, establish a more secure financial future. To qualify for SSI, applicants must also be blind, deaf or over 65 years old.
SSI is funded by federal tax revenues. It provides monthly payments to help cover necessities like food, clothing and shelter. You could also potentially receive housing assistance with SSI.
What Is Social Security Disability Insurance?
The Social Security Disability Insurance program offers monthly payments to disabled Americans who paid into the Social Security system. The goal is to ensure that people who become disabled during their working lifetime will receive some income to replace their lost wages.
Applicants must be considered disabled by a set definition and, in most cases, must have at least 40 credits to qualify. Younger workers with a disability might need fewer credits.
SSI vs. SSDI
SSI and SSDI function differently. While SSI is only available to disabled people in financial need, any disabled person with a sufficient work history can file for SSDI benefits — SSI has firm limits for income and assets. SSDI doesn’t.
Eligibility for SSI is determined by disability and financial need. The government calculates your eligibility by evaluating your monthly income and the value of any assets you own aside from your primary residence.
The government determines SSDI eligibility based on the number of Social Security work credits you previously earned. People aged 32 and older need at least 40 work credits, or 10 years of employment, to qualify.
You may receive Social Security work credits from your own employment or from your spouse’s work history. You may also receive credits for your parents’ employment if you are younger than 18 or became disabled before you turned 22.
According to the Social Security Administration, a person on SSI can’t have more than $2,000 in resources, meaning things you own. An individual must have less than $1,913 per month in wages or self-employment income and less than $934 per month in pensions or gifts. A couple with SSI cannot have more than $3,000 in resources. They must have less than $2,827 a month in wages or self-employment income and less than $1,391 in pension or gifts.
Some payments are not counted as income. For example, the first $20 you receive each month and the first $65 from monthly earnings from working (and half the amount over $65) do not count when deciding whether you qualify.
Someone receiving SSDI benefits is not subject to any asset limits. But they must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity. In 2023, this means they must not be able to earn more than $1,470 a month due to their disability. If they’re blind, they must not be able to make more than $2,460 a month.
People who get SSDI payments can work and earn income. But if they earn more than $1,050 in a single month, they may trigger a trial work period — an individual can test their ability to work while still receiving SSDI benefits.
SSI benefits depend on your income. There is no waiting period to start receiving benefits for SSI, but there is a five-month waiting period for SSDI.
- $914 for a single person
- $1,371 for a couple where both people are eligible
- $458 for an essential person or live-in caregiver
The amount of monthly SSDI benefits depends on how much you paid into the federal program before the onset of your disability. The maximum SSDI benefit is the same as the maximum Social Security benefit, which rose to $3,627 per month for 2023.
In most states, people who qualify for SSI automatically qualify for Medicaid. In some states, they must apply for Medicaid coverage separately.
People who qualify for SSDI receive Medicare coverage after receiving disability payments for 24 months.
SSDI is funded by Social Security’s dedicated payroll tax, the Social Security Trust Fund. SSI is funded by general tax revenues.
Means-Tested Program vs. Entitlement Program
A financial means-tested program like SSI signifies you can only receive benefits if you need money. But SSDI is an entitlement program. You must have contributed to the program before you can reap any benefits. Anyone can receive SSDI benefits if they hold enough work credits and meet the program’s definition of having a disability.
How They’re Similar
Both SSI and SSDI are social programs that help disabled Americans replace some of the income they could have earned if they could work. The goal for both is to ensure that the people who receive benefits always have at least some form of payment to depend on.
According to the SSA, “The programs share a common definition of disability for adults: the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity based on a medically determinable impairment that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death. Both programs also consider blindness when defining disability.”
Can You Receive Both SSI and SSDI?
You can receive both SSI and SSDI benefits at the same time. Many people do. If your monthly income with SSDI is below SSI’s Federal Benefit Rate, you can receive SSI payments to make up the difference. However, your SSI payments will be reduced by the amount you receive in SSDI payments minus the general income exclusion amount.
Frequently Asked Questions About SSI and SSDI
13 Cited Research Articles
- Social Security Administration. (2023, January). A Guide to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Groups and Organizations. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-11015.pdf
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2023, January). SSI/SSDI Post-Entitlement Events Guide. Retrieved from https://soarworks.samhsa.gov/article/ssissdi-post-entitlement-events-guide
- Social Security Administration. (2023). Fact Sheet: Social Security. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/factsheets/colafacts2023.pdf
- Social Security Administration. (2023). SSI Federal Payment Amounts for 2023. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/SSI.html
- Social Security Administration. (2023). Trial Work Period. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/twp.html
- National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare. (2022, October 13). Fast Facts About the Social Security Disability Program. Retrieved from https://www.ncpssm.org/documents/social-security-policy-papers/fast-facts-about-the-social-security-disability-program/
- Bauer, B. (2022, March 16). SSI vs. SSDI: The Differences, Benefits and How To Apply. Retrieved from https://ncoa.org/article/ssi-vs-ssdi-what-are-these-benefits-how-they-differ
- Social Security Administration. (2022, March). Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-11000.pdf
- Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Disability Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/
- Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Disability Benefits | Family Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/family.html
- Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Example of Concurrent Benefits With Employment Supports. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/redbook/eng/supportsexample.htm
- Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/
- Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Trends in the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income Disability Programs. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/chartbooks/disability_trends/overview.html