SSI vs SSDI: What’s the Difference and Can You Apply for Both?

If you meet the federal definition for disability, there are programs available to help.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) both provide cash payments to people federally recognized as ‘disabled.’ Understanding these benefits might be an essential part of protecting your future.

Overlaps in eligibility sometimes allow you to claim both benefits. So, if you’re looking to support yourself or a loved one, these federal programs could provide enormous financial relief.

While the plans sound similar, there are some distinct differences. Read on as we explore SSI vs SSDI, how these schemes might benefit you, and whether you can apply for both.

Let’s dive in!

Social Security Disability Insurance

Known as SSD or SSDI, this program provides benefits to disabled or blind people who have previously contributed to worker’s social security.

To qualify, you have to meet Social Security’s disability criteria and have the required amount of work credits. It’s worth noting that what qualifies as a disability may differ from state to state.

Benefits are based on your earnings, whether these are yours, your spouse’s or your parent’s. These perks are provided to eligible family members, and there’s no income or resource limit with the program. Other types of income don’t affect your benefits, nor does where you live.

Typically, eligible parties must have paid into the social security system for at least ten years. However, requirements might be different for younger beneficiaries and disabled adult children, or retired and deceased workers.

In theory, all qualified workers are eligible for SSDI, even if they’re high-income earners.

Supplemental Security Income

As the name suggests, supplemental security income, referred to as SSI, centers around providing additional assistance to individuals who have limited resources or income.

It’s a means-tested benefit and therefore comes with strict financial requirements intended to meet the needs of the elderly, blind, and disabled that may struggle to access food and shelter.

To be eligible, you must meet social security’s disability criteria. Work credits aren’t required, but you must have limited income and resources, as the benefits are based on need and financed by General Revenues. These benefits don’t extend to family members.

Federal and state laws dictate how much you’re entitled to. Any other income might impact your SSI, so it’s imperative you report any income you’re receiving. If this pushes you beyond the threshold, you may no longer qualify for the program.

Where you live may also impact your eligibility and benefits, so if you move house, you’ll have to report this to the SSA.

The Key Differences Recapped

Now we’ve taken a look at both programs, let’s summarize the main differences.

  • SSDI is based on earning records and requires work credits. This correlates with how many years you worked and contributed to Social Security taxes. No work credits are necessary for SSI – this program is based on need.
  • SSDI may provide benefits to family members. This is not the case for SSI.
  • Where you live and/or who lives with you, may affect the benefits you can claim with SSI, but not with SSDI.

Let’s take at some of the differences in greater detail…

The Financial Benefits Can Differ Greatly

The money provided through the two programs can be vastly different. In 2020, the federal SSI payment will pay out $783 per month for one individual.

The average SSDI payment, on the other hand, will be $1,258. As SSDI is based on the person’s earning and working records, the amount could be much higher than this. Additionally, SSI benefits are reduced if the recipient receives additional income.

Medicaid and Access to Medicare on SSI and SSDI

Those receiving SSI (usually) also automatically qualify for Medicaid benefits. As such, many apply for SSI for health care alone.

SSDI beneficiaries are also eligible for Medicare, but only two years after they’re deemed eligible for SSDI benefits. Medicare is a federal health insurance program. It covers routine hospital services, as well as most primary medical care.

Many Medicare beneficiaries purchase gap policies to cover what isn’t included in the Medicare coverage.

SSI vs SSDI: Can You Apply for Both?

Specific circumstances may make it possible to collect SSI and SSDI at the same time. This is referred to as concurrent benefits and happens when a disability applicant is approved for SSDI but receives only a meager monthly payment.

If an individual only received low wages or did not work much in recent years, their SSDI payments might be below the state limit for SSI. On average, this is anywhere less than $783 per month. This limit is higher in some states.

If your income and assets are limited enough to qualify for SSI, and you have worked enough in the past to be eligible for SSDI, it is not unusual to receive both benefits.

However, most of the time, your SSDI payment, if you qualify, will be too high to also make you eligible for SSI. If you’re unsure about your eligibility, you might benefit from a lawyer helping with your SSDI claim.

Ready to Apply for SSDI and/or SSI?

Living with a disability often presents a significant strain on your resources and finances. SSDI and SSI are two programs designed to reward previous workers and provide essential support to those struggling.

If you fall below the state limit for SSI and have limited income and resources, you might qualify for both of these federal programs.

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