The Difference Between SSDI and SSI

Americans with disabilities can earn assistance with Social Security

For Americans with disabilities, making a living can prove to be difficult. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs provide the largest amount of income aid to those with disabilities. However, these programs do not provide assistance for those with short-term disabilities.



Social Security Disability Insurance
For Americans who have spent time paying taxes into the Social Security program, disability insurance will pay benefits to a disabled person and possibly members of their family.

To be eligible for SSDI, the Social Security Administration must approve disabilities. The definition of disabled by the administration rules state that a person must not be able to perform work that could be done before, adjust to other work due to medical conditions or the disability is expected to last for more than one year or might result in death. Short-term disabilities are largely not counted as part of this definition, and the SSA assumes that working families will have other sources of income to support themselves such as workers’ compensation, health insurance, savings or investments.

After a person has received SSDI payments for two years, they automatically will be enrolled in Medicare for their health insurance. Medicare Part A is at no cost to the beneficiary and covers inpatient care and follow-up care, while Part B requires recipients to pay a monthly premium if they wish to have coverage for doctor’s visits, medical services and outpatient hospital care.

Once a disability has been approved by the administration, the person will start receiving payments after the sixth month following approval. Once payments have been initiated, benefits are received the month after they are due. The amount received by an individual will depend on how much was contributed to Social Security and lifetime average earnings.

To apply for SSDI, applicants need to submit information online and must prove they are disabled. The SSA has a qualified list of disabilities that can receive automatic approval. However, not all disabilities are easy to prove and can take additional information to process before benefits are approved.

Supplemental Security Income
Unlike disability insurance, supplemental security income is intended to aid those who earn very little income or are blind or aged. The income assistance is meant to provide coverage for basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter. This program is not funded by Social Security contributions. Instead, the program uses money directly from general  tax revenues.

To be eligible for Supplemental Security Income, applicants must be a resident of the U.S. To be considered, a person must be at least 65 years of age, blind or disabled. For all of these conditions, assistance is only given to those who make very little or no monthly income. Payment is based on financial need. To apply for these benefits, there may be other requirements and assessments involved to prove blindness or disability.

Some who receive assistance may need income in order to gain financial independence. Once they return to this status, some may wish to return to the work force. There are some incentives for Americans who become employed after receiving SSI including continual acceptance of Medicaid even after SSI payments stop. It is also possible to continue receiving SSI benefits even with employment, and the Social Security Administration can help in some situations by not counting every type of additional income. Disabled and blind beneficiaries may also receive payments for travel accommodations to and from work, out-of-pocket costs for work-related expenses and Plans to Achieve Self-Support programs where recipients can put aside money each month.