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The Difference Between SSDI and SSI

Social Security has two programs which offer benefits to individuals whom are disabled: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The qualifications for these programs differ significantly.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI is a program that benefits individuals who become disabled before reaching retirement age. This specific program is based upon an individual’s capacity for gainful employment.

Qualifications For SSDI
To qualify for SSDI, an individual must have worked (or served) 5 of the past 10 years at a job which paid into Social Security. Specifically, he or she must have earned a minimum of 20 work credits. You can earn up to four work credits per year. Visit Social Security Credits for more information.

In addition, an individual must be determined disabled by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The disability definition can be found below.

The SSA Disability Definition
To be considered disabled in accordance with the guidelines set forth by the SSA, one must meet the following criteria:

  • Cannot perform previous work (return to past occupation)
  • Cannot adjust to other work because of medical condition(s)
  • Medical condition(s) must last, or be expected to last, at least one year and/or result in death

A beneficiary may receive:

  • Up to $2,700 per month
  • Monthly benefits for qualified children
  • The option to utilize Medicare
  • Cost of Living increases
  • Retroactive benefits

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is a program that is strictly need-based. This program is not related to work history, rather, takes into consideration an individual’s income and assets.

Qualifications For SSI
An individual must meet two conditions in order to qualify for SSI. First, the claimant must be considered disabled according to SSA guidelines. Second, the claimant must have insufficient or no income and less than $2,000 in assets.

Qualifying For Both SSDI and SSI

It is possible to receive both types of benefits at once. An applicant must have low enough income and assets to qualify for SSI while also having worked long enough at a job that paid into Social Security to qualify for SSDI.

Many veterans applying for Social Security Disability already have a disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The SSA does not determine disability according to the VA standard. As a result, those with a 100% VA rating are not guaranteed approval for SSDI or SSI.