If you find yourself unable to work, it is important to know what your claim options are.

Many people don’t understand the disparities between Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Both programs are overseen and/or managed by the Social Security Administration, and medical eligibility for both is also determined in the same manner.

However, that’s about as far as the commonalities go, as they are two different governmental programs.


Social Security Disability Insurance

Social security disability (SSDI) is available to workers who have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits, which are funded through payroll taxes.

SSDI recipients are considered “insured” and have contributed to social security trust funds in the form of FICA Social Security taxes.  

To qualify for SSDI, the worker must earn a certain level of credits based on taxable work.

SSDI disability benefits are payable to disabled workers, widows, widowers, and adults disabled since childhood if they are otherwise eligible. and younger than 65.

Supplemental Security Income

Supplemental security income (SSI) is a program that is strictly need-based.

This means that applications are considered solely based on two factors: income and assets.

SSI makes monthly payments to people who are blind, disabled or age 65 or older who have low income and limited resources, meet certain living arrangement requirements, and are otherwise eligible.

To meet the SSI income requirements, individual applicants must have less than $2,000 in assets (or $3,000 for couples), in addition to very limited income.

SSI disability benefits are available to low-income individuals who have either never worked, or who haven’t earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI.

Disabled or blind children and those who have never worked or whose work history has not earned them enough credits to qualify for SSDI may receive consideration for disability benefits under the SSI program.

The Social Security Administration manages the SSI program, but SSI is not paid for by Social Security taxes. SSI is paid for by U.S. Treasury general funds.

Medicare or Medicaid?


In cases of SSDI applicants, a disabled person(s) generally become eligible for Medicare when they have received SSDI for two years.

Under SSDI, the recipient’s family (e.g. spouse/children) is eligible to receive partial dependent benefits known as “auxiliary benefits.”

These benefits, however, are only made available to adults, 18 and older. Furthermore, it is important to note there is a five-month waiting period for these particular benefits.


When it comes to SSI, disabled people who are eligible under the income requirements for SSI can typically receive Medicaid in the state they reside in.

The amount an eligible person can receive is largely dependent on where they live, and the amount of regular, monthly income they maintain.

SSI benefits begin on the first of the month of your submitted application. In most cases, those who qualify for SSI can also qualify for food stamps.

The below can serve as a visual guide to the similarities and differences between these two programs:

SSI & SSDI differences


Loyd J. Bourgeois
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