Important: We updated this page in January 2023 to make sure all info is correct based on current SSA guidelines. When it comes to disability assistance, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are two programs Americans can lean on. While both programs offer assistance to disabled individuals, there are some key differences. Below, we’ll explain how each disability program works, eligibility requirements and more.
What Is SSDI?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is available for Americans who spend their working years paying Social Security payroll taxes. To qualify for this disability program’s monthly benefit payments, you must meet five requirements:
- First, you must meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of “disabled,” which an independent doctor that works for the agency usually confirms.
- Second, you must be unable to perform your current work duties or find another job that pays similar wages that’s willing to hire you with your current limitations.
- Third, a doctor must expect your medical condition to last at least 12 months or result in death.
- Fourth, you must be at least 18, but less than 66 years old when you apply for SSDI benefits.
- Lastly, you must have worked 5 in the last 10 years full time in a job that withheld FICA taxes from every paycheck. (Employers also refer to them as Social Security taxes.)
If you qualify for SSDI, you’ll typically begin receiving monthly disability payments no sooner than six months after your application date. The amount of money you receive each month depends on how much you contributed through Social Security taxes during your working years. To find your payment amount, the SSA averages your highest wages earned over the last 10 years you worked. Then, they make adjustments to account for inflation. Your SSDI payment amount should equal about 40% of your typical monthly paycheck while working. Today, the average monthly SSDI payment is $1,483.
What Is SSI?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is meant to help children and adults who are disabled, blind, or over 65 years old. SSI benefits cover necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter specifically for households with limited income and resources. Unlike SSDI, SSI benefits come from the general tax revenue. So, people who apply are not required to have paid into the system while working. The most any individual can receive in SSI benefits is currently $914 each month. Eligible couples can receive no more than $1,371 in monthly SSI benefits. Applicants under age 65 must either prove they’re blind or disabled to qualify for SSI. Since the SSA reviews these claims the same way they do applications for SSDI benefits, the medical exams for both programs are the same.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
If you’re thinking of applying for either benefit, having an experienced Social Security disability advocate or attorney on your side is key. Experienced legal assistance can provide the following benefits:
- File your claim in a timely manner.
- Represent you if an appeal is necessary.
- Nearly triples your chances of disability approval the first time you apply.
- If the SSA doesn’t approve your benefits application, you owe $0 in legal fees.
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