What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?

What Does SSDI Stand ForSSDI and SSI are both federal benefits that are available to people who are disabled and cannot work, and both rely on the same federal standard of disability.

SSDI stands for Social Security Disability Insurance, and it functions like an insurance plan for workers. It falls under Title II of the Social Security Act. These benefits are available to individuals who have paid Social Security taxes over a sufficiently long period, and the benefits amount is based on the worker’s earnings record. These benefits are available regardless of the person’s income or assets.

SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income and is a federal welfare program for the elderly, blind, and disabled.  It falls under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Unlike SSDI, these benefits are paid out of general revenues, not the Social Security trust fund. The benefit amount for SSI is set by Congress, and states may add a supplemental amount. Unlike SSDI, SSI is “needs-based.” To be eligible for SSI, an individual must meet the income and assets requirements of the program.

It is possible for an individual to receive both SSDI and SSI benefits if the SSDI benefits are low enough that the person is still eligible for SSI.

Please Note: Some questions from readers have also been answered, but we have closed comments for now as our time to answer questions is limited. Any answers are for informational purposes only; they do not constitute legal advice and do not establish an attorney-client relationship.

64 Comments on What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?

  1. Joseph D. Renevitz // March 31, 2016 at 10:07 pm //

    I have bone spurs in my ankle and in my back which my X-Rays indicate which is causing me pain. I am retired and with SSI and would like to know if I can receive disability insurance as well.

    • If a person is receiving SSI due to having reached full retirement age and not being eligible for Social Security retirement benefits (because they have not worked enough), then they would not be eligible for Social Security disability benefits either. SSI provides a single benefit amount for retired or disabled people. It is not possible to get an increased benefit if you are retired and disabled.

  2. Anonymous // April 11, 2016 at 9:25 pm //

    ‘Well, you answered my question about ssi-ssd and ssd. Thanks

  3. Irene Sarmiento // April 25, 2016 at 4:21 pm //

    When my brother-in-law passed away, my sister started receiving half of his social security benefits. She is now 66 years old (born in 1950). Can she apply for her own benefits?

  4. Brett Voss // May 9, 2016 at 9:40 pm //

    Hi I wanna know about SSDI I am deaf and also I am pressman more than 35 yrs still working and as right now its getting bad slow and if I get laid off can I get SSDI I am 56 yrs old can you help me about this cuz I have house its paid off and I live alone sometime my son live with me thank you , Brett

  5. My ex husband was just approved for SSI. We have 2 biological children together (ages 10 and 11) and I was wondering whether they are entitled to a portion of his monthly SSI payments. I heard that minor children are entitled to a parent’s SSDI payments, but not SSI payments. Is that correct?

    • That is correct. While Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits can be garnished for child support, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits cannot. The reason is that SSI benefits are based on need for very low-income people, not on the value of past employment.

  6. Hello I’m reviving ssi and my gf works full time making pretty good money anyway my question is if we get married will I lose my benifits

    • If you marry, part of your spouse’s income can be “deemed” to you, and could reduce or even eliminate your benefits, depending on the income amount. Social Security uses a complicated formula for income deeming. A good explanation with some examples is here.

  7. I am 45yrs old and was diagnosed with COPD 2yrs ago..Social Security said I haven’t earned enough to get SSDI only SSI..I’ve worked my whole life! Where do they base their information from? And how do I appeal their decision?

    • To be eligible for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits, you have to not only have worked enough total in your life, but you have to have worked enough recently, to qualify. Social Security counts eligibility in “quarters of coverage,” of which you can earn 4 per year. Generally speaking, to be eligible for disability benefits, you have to have earned 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. More info here.

      If you think Social Security calculated your eligibility incorrectly, you can appeal that decision the same as you would appeal a decision that you are not disabled. Ask to file a Request for Reconsideration or a Request for a Hearing.

    • Very low amount!! $488 a month..Can’t live on that!!

      • Yes, SSI is a very low amount. The federal maximum for an individual is $733 per month. If you are receiving other assistance with food or shelter, for instance living in someone else’s home where you don’t contribute to the costs, then the benefits may be reduced to $488 per month.

  8. Bernardo Valdes // August 1, 2016 at 2:12 pm //

    Hi I am 49 years old male. In 2014 I started getting numbness in my arm and leg. First that said that it was many things. I applied for ssa. They have denied me. I requested an appeal with an administrative law judge. I am still waiting. I am very depressed, I am seeing a psychiatrist. On June 30, 2016 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I started daily injections and also psysical therapy. I am very week, I get tired very quiclkly and cannot due any activity for long without getting very tires. I have 2 cervical herniated disc and very high blood pressure and cholestrol. I have recently found out that I can request an on the record review. I have done so. I am just waiting. All my medical records are updated and were given to the Social Security office to put in my file. What are the chances of me getting approved before going to the hearing based on the on record review only.

    • It’s hard to say what your chances are of getting approved on the record, because it depends on many factors such as the limitations your condition causes you, the strength of the medical evidence, and the judge assigned to your case. If your on the record request is not successful, I recommend hiring an attorney well in advance of the hearing. An attorney will be able help you prepare for the hearing, gather additional evidence that may be needed, and represent you at the hearing. Usually, an attorney is not paid unless they win your case for you, in which case they are paid 25 percent of your back pay, up to a maximum of $6,000.

  9. I’m 65, my husband 72 and both receive Social Security. My husband has a rare blood cancer and failing kidneys and I have an auto-immune disease relapsing polychondritis. We have medicare and supplemental insurance. We currently have on 50.00 to last us 2 weeks until he gets his check on the second Wed of the month. I had to stop several of my medications to be able to buy his drugs. We struggle each month meeting our bills and medical expenses. How do we get help? What can we do? I am beyond desperate and don’t know what to do. I’m consumed with worry/stress over my very sick husband. Any advice would be welcomed. Thank you.

    • I am very sorry to hear that you are struggling. I am glad that at least you both have Medicare and supplemental insurance, but I understand that the costs of premiums and medications add up.

      In the big picture, we the people need to put pressure on our elected officials to expand Social Security benefits. Groups like Social Security Works and the National Coalition to Preserve Social Security and Medicare are organizing to demand change.

      For your individual situation, I am sorry that I don’t have more to suggest, but one benefit that people often overlook is food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as administered by your state. The program has income limits, but for people with disabilities or who are age 60 or over, you only have to meet the net income test, which means that you can subtract your health care costs from your Social Security income to show that you have a low net income. Here is more information about how to apply for food assistance by state.

  10. Maxine Jackson // September 22, 2016 at 4:24 pm //

    Im on ssa/disability due to MS i want to work part time at a daycare center for minimal wage. SS office said I could work as long as I dont make over 1000 a month without affecting benefits. But i was looking o. Web site said if you draw disability and social security and work can cut you off is this true

    • First of all, if the type of disability benefits you are receiving is Supplemental Security Income (SSI), then income you earn will reduce your benefit. However, assuming you are receiving Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits, then what the Social Security office told you is approximately right: in general, you cannot earn more than a certain amount per month ($1,130 in 2016), without affecting your benefits. An exception to this rule is the trial work period.

  11. Kimberly Freeman // October 12, 2016 at 10:08 am //

    Hey I am 39 years old I have worked all my life. I am now on disability due to a terminal illness. I received $733 a month do I qualify for ssdi

  12. Hildegard Carron // October 15, 2016 at 3:10 am //

    Practical comments . I was enlightened by the details , Does someone know where my business could locate a fillable SSA-454-BK copy to type on ?

  13. Christine Riordan // October 17, 2016 at 8:27 pm //

    I am a 68 (nov 69) I have worked for about 45 years. in 2013 I suffered stroke which has afected left side. I am receiving social security. Can I also receive disability payments

  14. I receive SSDI of $966 per month. I drive an 8 yr old car, live in a mobile home for which I pay lot rent of $415.00 per month, and homeowners insurance. I
    have $30.00 in a savings acct and less than $100 currently in a checking acct. I receive SNAP of $125.00 per month.I am a widow. I will be 62 in Dec 2016. Am I eligible for SSI in addition to SSDI?

    • Unfortunately, all SSI can do is bring you up to the SSI amount, which is $733 per month in 2016. So if you are receiving SSDI in an amount greater than that, then you would not be eligible for SSI.

  15. My mother receives SS retirement each month which is not a lot. She was recently Diagnosed with Advanced Dementia would this make her eligible for SS disability as well. Or can you only receive one benefit at a time?

    • If she started taking early retirement benefits before her full retirement age, and has not yet reached her full retirement age, then she could apply for Social Security disability benefits and, if found disabled, she would receive her full disability amount rather than the reduced amount for taking early retirement. However, after reaching full retirement age, becoming disabled does not make one eligible for any additional benefits.

  16. I am disabled through SSI but now make too much from Widow’s Benefits to receive any monies from them. Am I eligible for SSDI from Widow’s Benefits?

    • Usually an SSDI application is automatic with an SSI application, so if you did not start receiving SSDI when your SSI benefits began, it may be because you were not eligible for SSDI. If that is the case, then you would not be eligible now either. In terms of surviving spouse benefits, being disabled is a factor in that you can receive surviving spouse benefits as early as age 50 rather than age 60.

  17. Kara Connor // February 9, 2017 at 4:20 am //

    I have worked in the past, but it’s goin on 4 years now I have been out of work due to my mental illness which has gotten worse. One job I had to leave for 3 months for mental disability and was unable to return. I suffer from depression, bi polar, anxiety and OCD, and now recently agoraphobia. Also have been hospitalized 5 times for them and being suicidal. I was just denied due to my conditions are not severe enough for either claim? Should I get a lawyer? I don’t understand any of this

    • You should definitely appeal, and you probably have a greater chance of success with a lawyer helping you. Usually the attorney would not be paid anything unless they win your case, in which case their fee would usually be 25% of your back pay. If you are in the Tampa Bay area, you may call me. Otherwise you may wish to call the NOSSCR referral line at 1-800-431-2804.

  18. I’m on SSD. I just turned 62. Should I apply for SSA? I worked 33 years and paid into both.

    • If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, then you are already receiving your full benefit amount. What will happen is that at your full retirement age (not age 62), your disability benefits will convert automatically into retirement benefits, in the same amount. You don’t have to do anything for this to happen, and there is nothing to be done at age 62. A more detailed discussion is on this page.

      Separately, there is the matter of Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If either your SSDI or retirement is less than $735 per month, you can apply for SSI to bring your benefit up to that amount.

  19. Lauren baker // April 9, 2017 at 11:44 am //

    Hi, I have major depression, PTSD, bipolar, insomnia and anxiety and dealt with domestic violence for 10 years, I have lots of paperwork proving everything. It is very hard for me to keep a job. I also have a child. Would I be eligible for SSI or disability benefits? Please help thanks

    • It is definitely possible to be found disabled and eligible for SSDI or SSI based on those conditions. The crucial factors will be whether the medical evidence shows that your conditions cause serious limitations, and whether you are either insured for SSDI (due to having worked enough recently) or meet the income and resource limits for SSI. You can apply online or by calling 1-800-772-1213.

  20. Catherine Kwiatkowski // May 6, 2017 at 7:21 pm //

    I am a cancer survivor (immune system – Hodgkins Lymphoma) and was cleared to work in 1996 and have worked. Unfortunately I have side effects from the chemotherapy. 1 month ago I had surgery to remove an extremely large tumor on my right kidney; it was so bad they had to take out one kidney along with the tumor and my appendix as well. I am still home healing. Is there any chance I would be eligible for any kind of long term disability? I am having difficulty paying my bills while I am at home getting temp disability from work which is half my pay.

    • One of the requirements for receiving Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits is that your condition prevents you from working and is expected to last for one year or more.

  21. Peggy Davidson // May 9, 2017 at 4:26 pm //

    I have a few Questions, I was born with Holt-Oram Syndrome in both hands and arms. I have been able to work with this disability all of my life , I’m 60 years old now and I’ve gotten to the point that I’m no longer able to work. I also have a son that was born with the same disability as me, but he is also Autistic, and has never been able to work. He received the lowest 464.00 SSI Check. If I’m approved for my disability, will he be able to draw off of my rears worked as disability?

    • If you are found disabled and start receiving Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits, then it is possible your son would qualify for what is called Disabled Adult Child benefits based on your record.

      • Peggy Davidson // May 17, 2017 at 11:36 am //


        You stated that it may be ‘possible’ that my son could qualify for the Disabled Adult Child benefits..what would be a reason that he couldn’t?

        Thank you so much for responding to me.


        • I wouldn’t be able to say without knowing all the details of his case. The best thing to do would be to contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 and ask about applying. You can also check out this Social Security webpage for the requirements of Disabled Adult Child benefits.

  22. I am 60 years old, and have not worked in 10 years; at first, it was due to not being able to find permanent work (I worked Temp Jobs for a while) during the time when the economy and job market, were bad; then I started having health problems (Jan 2011), severe pain in my Legs, and other ailments occurred later on; I have Peripheral Neuropathy (including most of the symptoms; burning, stinging, muscle cramps, discoloration, etc.),Thoracic Lumbar Radiculopathy (Sciatica), Spondylosis of the Thoracic Spine, Osteoarthritis in the Cervical Spine (C4 – C7/pinched nerve in the C7) as well as the left Rotary Cuff (with torn Ligaments), Arthritis in both Knees and my right Wrist and G.I. problems (this last one, hasn’t been diagnosed, but it’s there), yet, I was denied twice. I didn’t become disabled/sick, within 5 year window. Any legit responses/suggestions, greatly appreciated.

    • When you say you were denied twice, I’m not sure how far you appealed the denial. I would recommend contacting a Social Security disability attorney in your area, and appealing any denial up to the level of a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. You can find an attorney by calling the NOSSCR referral line at 1-800-431-2804. Since as you say you did not become disabled until some time after you stopped working, you would no longer be considered insured under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, but you could still get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

  23. Josephine Kirklin // August 4, 2017 at 2:02 am //

    If a person is receiving widows benetfit can they also get their own ssi benetfits because they are unable to work. Thank you

  24. Denise Grimm // August 6, 2017 at 11:21 am //

    I receive SSDIW . widow’s Disability from my decessed husband’s Account. It’s a portion of what his fill Disability benefit would be. If receing this can o also Receive Retirement pay from my account. I draw with is social #. . When can I also draw from my social #

    • If you are eligible for survivor’s benefits on your spouse’s record and also eligible for benefits on your own record, then you can receive the higher amount (not both). To apply, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.

  25. w. mae clark // August 19, 2017 at 3:26 pm //

    Hello, I am 67 years old, and I was disabled most of my life, therefore I have little, or no work credits, I was on ssdi, but recently it changed to ssi. I am at retirement age, even though I am getting the amt. $735 and I don’t expect it to change, will my status automatically change to retirement?

    • Typically someone only receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and over age 65 would already be receiving SSI on the basis of their age, so there would be no change of status expected.

  26. Laura Blaylock // August 28, 2017 at 6:54 pm //

    So I am a single mom who receive s SIS due to my disability of cyrabal palsy. If I die or can not take care of myself or kids no more they can receive my check s?

  27. Laura Blaylock // August 28, 2017 at 6:56 pm //

    Also I was wondering can I receive SSDI if I receive SSI.

    • Generally when you apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), they also automatically do an application for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). So if you are receiving SSI and not SSDI, it is likely that you were not eligible for SSDI, perhaps due to not having worked enough in the five years before becoming disabled. To answer your other question, with SSI there are no survivors benefits. However, even if you are not eligible for SSDI, if you have worked at all then you may have enough credits that your children would be eligible for survivors benefits if you died.

  28. Margaret Vargas // September 23, 2017 at 11:25 pm //

    I receive ssi due to a stroke that left me paralyzed on my left side. My mother recently passed away. If I am a beneficiary from her group life insurance, will ssi decrease or take away my monthly payments.?

    • Generally speaking, to be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your resources must be less than $2,000 for an individual, so if the proceeds from the policy would put your resources above $2,000, then you would be ineligible for benefits until you spend it down. Items such as a house you live in or a car you use for transportation are excluded from resources, so if you receive a significant amount, those are things you can spend the money on while keeping your eligibility.

  29. Tammie Ochoa // September 28, 2017 at 2:52 pm //

    I have stage 4 Copd, I get s.s..i. i have state medical coverage, which isn’t the best, I worked & paid in 68,000 over the yrs. & a friend of mine has a mental & some physical limitations, but she gets as I & said & she is younger & she also gets state medical & Me dicare, why don’t I have both?

    • If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), then you should be eligible for Medicaid. It sounds like your friend may receive both Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) and SSI, and thus be eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. The usual reason that someone is not eligible for SSDI and therefore not eligible for Medicare is that they did not work enough in the five years just before they became disabled (even if they worked a lot before that), so they are no longer considered insured under the SSDI program.

  30. Cora V French // October 24, 2017 at 10:19 am //

    I am 52 and 100% disable drawing disability payments. Two years have pass and now I just was put on Medicare drawing SSI. Will I lose my disability insurance and what about my children who are drawing on my disability insurance.

    • If you were originally drawing Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) payments, I see no reason why those payments would stop. I understand you becoming eligible for Medicare after two years, but receiving Medicare would not normally trigger Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility. Some people receive SSI because their SSDI is less than the federal benefit amount ($735 per month for an individual in 2017), but they still get SSDI.

  31. I receive SSDI, $1,785.00 monthly. I am deaf and living with congestive heart failure as well as being HIV+ for over 25 years. I will soon be 63yo. Money is extremely tight for me and was wondering if it would be to my advantage to switch to SSI and work part time on a desk job for a relative to supplement my income without my current income being penalized?

    My Medi-Cal deductible is over $1,100 a month and I feel I may need all the benefits Medi-Cal has to offer as I get older which means the $1,785 would be lowered somewhere around $685.00 per month which is a huge difference. Not sure what to do but thinking of my future in case I live long enough.

    • There’s not really a way to switch to Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI pays $750 per month (slightly more in California with the optional state supplement), and if you already receive more than that in Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits, then SSI would not pay anything additional. However, it is possible to work on a limited or temporary basis while still receiving SSDI benefits through a trial work period.

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