SSDI and SSI: Similar but Different Disability Programs

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 (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 must have worked for a certain number of years and have contributed to social security trust funds in the form of FICA social security taxes. Furthermore, applicants must be younger than 65 and have earned a certain number of work credits.

Supplemental security income (SSI)strong> is a program that is strictly needs-based. This means that applications are considered solely based on two factors: income and assets. 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.

Medicaid or Medicare?

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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Disability, Personal Injury, and Divorce Attorney