Important: We updated this article in March 2023 to make sure all info below is both current and correct. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are similar. So similar, in fact, that many people don’t know which benefits they receive every month. Below, we’ll explain how to tell if you have Social Security disability insurance coverage or not.
How Can You Tell If You’re Getting SSDI or SSI Benefits?
The main difference between the two programs is that:
- SSDI is available to workers who pay Social Security disability insurance premiums through FICA payroll taxes.
- SSI is available to low income individuals without enough work credits or disability insurance coverage. Therefore, they cannot qualify for Social Security disability insurance benefits based on their own work record.
But even knowing that, it can still be difficult to tell which program is paying you money each month. After all, you fill out the same application paperwork, regardless. Once the Social Security Administration (SSA) gets your application, the agency reviews it for both programs’ eligibility requirements. If you meet all medical requirements and have disability insurance coverage, you may qualify for SSDI. If you meet all medical requirements but don’t have Social Security disability insurance, then you may qualify for SSI instead.
Who Pays for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income?
There are major differences between the two benefits programs that you should know about, including who pays for them and how much:
- People on SSDI have the potential to get more money than SSI pays each month. That’s because SSDI benefits are based on your payroll contribution to Social Security’s disability insurance program. So if you’ve paid enough into Social Security to qualify for SSDI, you have the potential to earn more.
- SSI benefits are based on the annual Federal Benefit Rate and are paid from a completely different fund. (In 2023, the maximum SSI payment is $914 a month. Couples can receive a maximum of $1,371 per month in SSI.) These benefits are paid for out of the general tax fund, not the Social Security trust fund. If you’re still not sure which benefits you have or how to qualify (since the SSA manages payments for both programs), we’ll explain more below.
How to Tell If You Have Disability Insurance Coverage Before You Apply for Benefits
- Work history — Have you worked 5 in the last 10 years and paid disability insurance premiums through your FICA taxes? Then you likely qualify for SSDI, but there are always exceptions. Your age when you become disabled determines how many years you must work to qualify for SSDI. The SSA rules say that anyone over 35 must work 5 in the last 10 years to qualify for SSDI. That’s because your insurance coverage ends exactly five years after you stop working and paying FICA taxes. If you wait until after your coverage lapses to apply, then you can’t get SSDI. If that happens but you still meet all medical requirements, the SSA may approve your claim for SSI benefits instead.
- Disability insurance premiums you pay for with FICA taxes — The “Federal Insurance Contributions Act” taxes that come out of every paycheck cover your insurance premiums, Social Security retirement, and Medicare benefits. In order to qualify for SSDI, you must pay FICA payroll taxes and apply for SSDI before your coverage runs out. If you’re a federal employee or have a pension from work, you might not pay FICA taxes. Look for any amount listed in Box 4 on last year’s W-2.
- Work credits — The SSA uses your yearly job income to determine your Social Security work credits. You can earn a maximum of four work credits every year, and you’ll need 40 total to qualify for SSDI. In addition to those 40 work credits required for disability insurance benefits, you must earn 20 in the past decade.
If you’ve worked close to 5 in the last 10 years (4+ years), you must earn more credits to qualify. In 2023, you get one credit for every $1,640 in earned wages.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Still have questions about how to get benefits? SSDI and SSI are very complex programs, and only one pays disability insurance benefits. Luckily, you can sign up for a free phone call from a Social Security attorney in your area. People who have lawyers file their claims are nearly 3x more likely to receive benefits. If a lawyer can’t get you benefits, then you pay $0 for expert claim help. And if you do win, then you’ll only pay one small fee after you get your money first.
Want free expert claim help without leaving your home? Click the button below now to sign up for a free phone call during normal business hours:
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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.
Mandy Voisin is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Girls of the Ocean and Star of Deliverance. As an accomplished content marketing consultant, mom of four and doctor's wife, Mandy has written hundreds of articles about dangerous drugs and medical devices, medical issues that impact disabled Americans, veterans' healthcare and workers' compensation issues since 2016.