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: We have opened up comments on this article so that you may ask additional questions if you wish, and we will try to answer them as we are able. Scroll down to the bottom to Leave a Comment or Question. Any answers are for informational purposes only; they do not constitute legal advice and do not establish an attorney-client relationship.

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

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

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

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

    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 // Reply

    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 // Reply

    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.

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

    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 // Reply

    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 // Reply

    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 // Reply

    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. 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 // Reply

    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.

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