The Difference Between Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Did you know that Social Security disability benefits are actually paid by two separate programs? You may have a claim through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or through Supplemental Security Income (SSI). There are some very important differences between these two federal disability insurance programs. In this article, you will find an overview of the key differences between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 

Four Key Differences Between SSDI and SSI

  • Eligibility Criteria 

To qualify for disability benefits, an applicant must meet both medical and technical requirements. The medical requirements for SSDI and SSI are similar. However, the non-medical requirements are quite different. Here is an overview of how the eligibility standards differ by program: 

  • SSDI Technical Eligibility: You are only “insured” for the purposes of SSDI if you have an adequate work history based on your age. When you file an SSDI claim, the SSA will review the number of work credits that you have earned. You must have earned enough (age-adjusted) to qualify for benefits.  
  • SSI Technical Eligibility: You do not need to have any work history to qualify for SSI. Instead, the SSI technically eligibility is based on financial need. You can qualify for SSI if you are medically disabled and your income and financial resources are low enough. 

Social Security disability claims are complicated—especially if you are filing for the first time. If you have any specific questions about financial or legal eligibility requirements, an experienced attorney such as those at the Social Security Law Group can help you navigate the process. 

  • Onset of Benefits

The onset of disability benefits differs by program. With SSDI, disability benefits begin after the applicant’s sixth full month of disability. The six month waiting period starts when the SSA has determined that a person is disabled. With SSI, a person can start receiving their benefits one full month after the SSA has determined that they are eligible. 

  • Amount of Benefits (Average & Maximum)

The amount of disability benefits are also different between SSDI and SSI. According to comprehensive data from the Social Security Administration (SSA), the average monthly SSDI benefit in January of 2022 was $1,223. In contrast, the average SSI disability benefit in January of 2022 was $624. The maximum monthly SSDI benefit for 2022 is $3,345. It is based on work history. The maximum monthly SSI benefit is $841 for an individual and $1,261 for a couple. It is based largely on income. 

  • Health Care Insurance 

Health care costs can be expensive—especially for those dealing with a disability or other chronic medical issues. In the United States, most people of working age receive their health care coverage through their employer. This creates a challenge for someone with a long-term disability. Both SSDI and SSI offer a path to health coverage—but the standards are different. In most states, a person who qualifies for SSI disability benefits will automatically qualify for Medicaid coverage. In every state, a person who qualifies for SSDI benefits will qualify for Medicare, but only after a 24-month waiting period.