SSI and SSDI: What’s the Difference?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are two different types of federal income supplement programs, and it’s important to understand the differences between them.

When you become disabled or otherwise unable to work, knowing how the government can help you can save you from extreme financial hardship. This guide will help you understand more about these two different types of programs.

How Do SSI and SSDI Differ?

SSI isn’t intended to help the disabled in a specific sense. Instead, this type of benefit provides a modest income to older adults and those who cannot earn a living wage through other means.

Conversely, SSDI is a taxpayer-funded insurance program that provides financial assistance to workers who suffered a long-term or permanent disability that prevents them from performing any type of work. In order to qualify for this type of benefit, you must have a solid work history, and you must be diagnosed with a qualifying disability that prevents you from working.

Additionally, someone on SSI will instantly be eligible for Medicaid, while someone on SSDI must wait 24 months after receiving their first disability payment before they can begin using Medicare.

What Are the Differences in Eligibility?

While a Social Security Disability lawyer can help you qualify for benefits, there are basic rules that apply to each type of benefit. Since the reasons for the benefits differ, it makes sense that the qualifications also differ.

To be eligible to receive SSI benefits, you must be 65 years old or older, or you must suffer from a permanent disability. In either case, you must show that your ability to earn an income is limited or nonexistent. Even after your application has been approved, you must wait a full month before you’ll receive your first check.

To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have sufficient work credits prior to being diagnosed with a life-altering disability. You must also show that you suffer from a disability that prevents you from performing any type of “substantial gainful activity,” as the Social Security Administration calls it.

The waiting period for disability benefits to begin is significantly longer. The SSA will make a determination as to when your disability began or was first experienced. You should receive your first benefits check six months after that date.

How Much Does Each Type of Benefit Pay?

The amount you can receive also varies under the two types of programs. The average amount a person on SSI receives is around $577 per month. The most you can receive in benefits per month is $794 for an individual and $1,191 for a couple. The exact amount you’ll receive will be determined based upon your recent levels of income. In addition to that amount, you will automatically qualify for Medicaid.

The average monthly payment for someone receiving SSDI benefits is $1,128. The maximum you can expect to receive is $3,148, but this amount is also based on income and work history. As previously stated, the waiting period for Medicare coverage is 24 months. However, if you have been diagnosed with a serious condition like ALS, you will be able to forgo the waiting period. In that case, your health coverage will begin as soon as you have been approved for benefits.

What Does the SSA Consider a Disability?

You should be aware that a temporary disability will not be enough to qualify you for either SSI or SSDI benefits. In that situation, you may have to seek another type of claim, such as worker’s compensation, when applicable. For permanent disabilities, the SSA maintains a list of recognized medical conditions.

Your disability must be included in this list of definitions in order to qualify. When submitting your application, you will be required to include copies of your medical records. In some situations, you may qualify to receive both SSI and SSDI benefits.

You may also qualify for the SSA’s Compassionate Allowances (CAL), which will expedite the application process. This special allowance is given in cases where the individual has a very severe disability and is unable to wait for the three-to-five-month-long approval process.


If you do need to seek disability benefits, consulting with a lawyer like this Social Security Disability lawyer in Pittsburg is helpful. While you don’t have to hire an attorney from the get-go, if your application gets denied, a lawyer can guide you through the appeal process. In addition, a lawyer may be able to help you get the maximum benefits you are allowed to receive, so any attorney fees you will be charged for this service will pay big dividends later on.

About Contributor:

SSI and SSDI: What's the Difference?With a law degree under his belt and years of experience, Mark Scott set off to make the law more accessible to all. He decided to help people lost in the maze of legal terminology to find their way. Mark writes clear and concise pieces and gives simple advice that is easy to follow. On account of positive feedback from readers, he decided to dedicate more of his time to this goal and became a legal columnist. In his writings, Mark covers a wide array of topics, like how to seek legal counsel, or how to deal with different procedures. Furthermore, he directs his readers toward other trustworthy resources for more in-depth information.

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