Between SSI and SSDI
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What are the Differences Between SSI and SSDI?

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

Multiple benefit programs offer financial assistance to older adults and people living with disabilities. Two of the most common federal programs are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

To help you understand the differences between SSI and SSDI, here is a breakdown of each program, their eligibility requirements, and how they differ.

What is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a taxpayer-funded federal program designed to help individuals who have paid into social security and are eligible to retire. Specifically, SSI benefits help older adults, people who are blind, and people with disabilities who have little-to-no income and need monetary assistance for necessities like food, clothing, and shelter.

This need-based program is a “means-tested program,” meaning it’s based solely on financial need and calculated according to a person’s income and assets. Most individuals who qualify for SSI disability are also eligible for food stamps, and the amount they receive depends on where they live and their monthly income.

SSI Eligibility

Typically, a person is eligible for SSI if they:

  • Are between the ages of 18 and 65
  • Are blind (any age)
  • Are disabled (any age)
  • Have limited income
  • Have limited resources
  • Are a U.S. citizen or national, or in one of certain categories of aliens
  • Meet certain other requirements

You are not eligible to receive SSI if you have a short-term or partial disability.

To apply for SSI, you can apply online if you are an adult with a disability. Individuals under 18 or applying for a child under 18 with a disability, or non-disabled seniors 65 or older, must visit their local Social Security office. While the period varies from person to person, it can take anywhere from three to five months for your application to be processed.


What is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is another federal program that helps people with disabilities. The program pays disability benefits to disabled adults and children who are insured, paid social security taxes on their earnings, and have limited income and resources.

Under SSDI, the spouse or children of a person with disabilities are eligible to receive partial dependent benefits or auxiliary benefits.

SSDI Eligibility

To qualify for social security disability, you must:

  • Be younger than 65
  • Have a work history of jobs covered by Social Security
  • Have worked long enough, and recently enough, to qualify for disability benefits
  • Have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability

If you have a short-term or partial disability, you are not qualified for SSDI. Some Americans find themselves unable to work because of an illness not listed in the SSDI medical condition database. Without legal aid, your application will probably be rejected. If you believe your condition should qualify you for SSDI, work with an experienced disability benefits lawyer to ensure you receive the benefits you need.

To apply for SSDI, individuals of any age can apply online or call their local Social Security office. The time it takes for an application to be processed can range anywhere from three to five months.

What Are the Differences Between SSI and SSDI?

While both SSI and SSDI are federal disability programs managed by the Social Security Administration with the same medical eligibility requirements, they are two completely separate programs with other distinct differences.

The skilled legal team at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., has expertise in both the SSI and SSDI claims processes. As a Michigan-based law firm, we know several doctors, case examiners, and judges who will review your claim and help walk you through the process.

You may qualify for both federal SSI and SSDI if you have limited income and resources, and a work history, but you must meet both programs’ qualifications to receive both programs’ benefits.

The key difference between the two programs is that SSI looks at your age, disability, and income level, while SSDI is determined by your disability and the number of work credits. SSI payments are available to those with low-income and limited resources who have never worked or who haven’t earned enough work credits to be eligible for SSDI.

SSI recipients in most states automatically qualify for Medicaid, while an SSDI recipient will automatically qualify for Medicare after 24 months of receiving SSDI benefits.

How SSI Differs from Social Security

Another common mistake people make is confusing Social Security Income with Social Security. While the Social Security Administration oversees both programs, they are separate and different programs.

Social Security benefit programs are entitlement programs in which workers, employers, and self-employed individuals pay for the benefits with their Social Security taxes. When you retire, you will qualify for benefits based on earnings. Unlike SSI, which is need-based, social security offers retirement, disability, and survivor benefits.

Schedule a Free Consultation with our Law Firm

If you believe you are eligible to receive either Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance but need clarification on each program or help navigating the application process, a social security disability attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can help you maximize your SSI or SSDI benefits.

Call us today at 866-MICH-LAW or fill out our online form to request a free consultation.

Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.

Elena is a writer and communications professional with a genuine concern for the environment. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in journalism with a specialization in environmental studies to complement her passion. In her spare time, Elena enjoys the great outdoors in her home state of Michigan.



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