Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) vs Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

There are two primary disability benefits programs, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both of which are administered by the Social Security Administration. Briefly, SSDI has a work credits requirement before you’re considered whereas SSI is dependent on your financial need.

While these two programs are operated by the SSA, they have several differences that you will want to know if you plan on applying for Social Security disability benefits.

What is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance is the program responsible for providing Social Security retirement benefits early to a worker if they become disabled. Before you can apply for SSDI, you’ll need to fulfill the job credit requirement before you’re considered to receive benefits.

SSDI is funded by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes which you pay continously while working; it’s not dependent on how much money you have or haven’t earned.

You need to have earned 6 work credits before you can qualify for SSDI if you became disabled before the age of 24 and 12 credits if your disability occurred between ages 24 and 31. You need to possess 20 job credits in the past 10 years before your disability if it occurred after age 31 before you’re eligible for SSDI benefits.

Those eligible for SSDI disability benefits include:

  • Disabled workers
  • Blind workers
  • Adults that have been disabled since childhood

There are other circumstances which may allow someone to qualify for SSDI benefits, but for the majority of the time, applicants will need to be in one the previously listed situations. Your monthly disability benefit will be dependent on your Social Security earnings income record.

What is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income is the program responsible for giving benefits to adults and children who are disabled, blind, or possess limited income and resources. However, this program is dependent on the financial need of the applicant. A successful SSI disability claim will be able to provide sufficient evidence that the applicant possesses low income and extremely few financial resources or assets.

Who Can Apply For SSDI and SSI

The Social Security Disability Insurance program uses different criteria to evaluate applicants compared to the Supplemental Security Income program. To qualify for SSI benefits, you need to be a U.S. citizen in addition to meeting the SSA’s criteria for SSI applicants.

You need to have a total earning income that does not exceed the SSI limit; this amount varies by state. The SSA also requires you to provide sufficient medical documentation that proves your disability will last for at least 12 months.

Your medical records will be reviewed every few months by the SSA to verify that the benefit recipient is still disabled, this applies to both SSDI and SSI recipients.

The SSA will evaluate your condition every 3 to 7 years, based on the condition of your disability. Once you begin receiving SSI benefits, your financial earnings record will be evaluated annually.

Important Information

If you plan on applying for Social Security disability benefits, it’s recommended you inquire about eligibility for both, SSDI and SSI benefits programs. For example, if you’re given less than $1000 a month through the SSDI benefits program, you may qualify to receive benefits from the SSI program as well.

When applying for SSI benefits, the SSA may ask you to submit financial records which include bank statements, savings, mortgage and lease agreements, and any other financial information that would help the SSA evaluate your financial status.

It would help immensely if you spoke with a professional Social Security Disability attorney, they can make the difficult and complex SSD benefits application process much smoother for you. 


How To Qualify for Social Security Disability

Qualifying for Social Security Disability

To begin receiving disability benefits from Social Security, you need first to meet their strict criteria for the Social Security Administration to consider you eligible for benefits.

The first thing an applicant is required to prove is whether or not their disability condition is permanent. “Permanent” specifically means that your condition will last for at least one year or that your disability is terminal. Due to the necessity of establishing this timeframe, as an applicant, it’s your responsibility to maintain accurate medical records and other important documents. Preventing mix-ups between you and the SSA will go a long way when it comes to successfully qualifying for Social Security disability benefits.

The SSA will review your application and determine whether or not your disability stops you from completing “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) on your own. The SSA will also evaluate your disability to decide if your condition stops you from completing necessary daily tasks of your past occupation.

Lastly, the SSA will evaluate to see if your condition would prevent you from applying and finding a new occupation or if the prevention is due to other factors such as age or education.
The Social Security Administration administers two programs that are federally funded, providing financial aid to those with disabling conditions. One is the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and the other is Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

What is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance is responsible for providing financial aid to those with disabling conditions that prevent them from working; it is one of the two programs funded by the Social Security tax. You’re required to have sufficient job credits if you wish to qualify for monthly payments under SSDI. Make sure to note that before applying for SSDI you need to have paid Social Security taxes on your wages for a certain amount of time to qualify for monthly benefits. This implies applicants are required to maintain a steady work history before qualifying for SSDI. The work credit requirement could be reduced for younger applicants who are under the age of 22 since they are allowed to apply for their parents’ work credits on their application.

What is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income is funded by general taxes instead of the specific Social Security tax. This permits applicants who lack a steady job history the opportunity to apply and even qualify. If you wish to qualify for SSI, you need to be either over the age of 65, legally blind or have a disabling condition in addition to having a total assets sum of less than $3000 for the entire family.

The SSA will recognize assets as a part of your income, which includes salary, pensions, and other benefits like inheritance. The SSA will recognize assets belonging to an applicant’s resources, which can include any stocks, real estate ownership and savings in cash. You could qualify for SSI payments under these conditions even if you lack a job history.

Common Reasons for Denial of Social Security Disability Claim

Social Security goes through a shocking amount of disability claims every daily. As a result, denial rates for initial applications are about 60%. In the first attempt of appeals or reconsideration, this percentage shoots up to near 80%.

The primary reason for these extremely common denials is because applicants consistently fail to prove the severity of their disabling condition. This may have been a result of poor or absence of accurate medical records.  Another reason why the SSA denies so many applications is because applicants often do not possess the necessary job history to meet the SSA’s job credit conditions. In addition, applicants are typically lost when it comes to the complexities of the Social Security appeal process and don’t know what to do after their application is denied.

To avoid these complications, you need to constantly seek treatment from doctors or other medical professionals and verify that their records are organized and accurately reflect your condition’s severity.

Disability vs. Retirement

SSDI, SSI, and Social Security Retirement are three financial benefits programs that the SSA administers. A common concern that people have who are receiving SSDI or SSI benefits is the uncertainty of will become of their disability payments once reaching retirement age.

If you qualified and are currently receiving SSDI, part or all of your monthly benefits could be turned into retirement benefits once you get to your retirement age. You should be aware that your total benefit amount will likely remain the same. You have to alert the SSA as soon as possible if your benefits increase, as you will be responsible for paying the SSA back if any excess money was given to you accidentally.

If you qualified and are now receiving SSI benefits, you may be able to maintain some if not all of your monthly payments. You should note that this is dependent on the amount of your retirement benefit. If your retirement benefit increases your monthly income, some or all of your financial need SSI payments could be reduced or completely retracted.

How do military retirement or VA disability benefits affect eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance?

Since the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) is a completely different government entity from the Social Security Administration (SSA), it’s certainly possible to earn benefits from both entities at the same time. In most situations, it’s recommended to speak with a professional legal consultant before submitting a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application considering the SSA has even denied veterans who receive 100% disability benefits from the VA.

Eligibility for VA disability may actually increase your chances of being approved for Social Security disability benefits. This is due to the SSA recognizing another government entity vouched for your disability, implying you will likely not be able to work in the future.

SSI Income and VA Disability

Social Security Disability Insurance is not a financial need-dependent program like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), but instead dependent on a person’s earnings record. As a result, receiving military retirement benefits won’t impact someone’s ability to qualify for SSDI.

There is one exception to this; if you receive VA pension. VA pension is provided for necessary veterans who are disabled outside of active duty and posses low income or assets. People receiving VA pension could qualify for SSI benefits, as both programs are based on financial need and provided to those with a disability.

Getting Help With Your SSDI or SSI Claim

If you’re a disabled veteran receiving military retirement benefits or VA disability benefits and are thinking about applying for SSDI, it’s highly recommended you contact an experienced Social Security attorney before applying. A Social Security lawyer can help guide you through the application process and make sure you do everything possible to give you the greatest chance of approval.

Can I receive SSI and SSDI benefits at the same time?

In some situations, you may be able to get both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits simultaneously. This is often known as “concurrent benefits.” To get concurrent benefits, you need to qualify and apply for SSDI in addition to receiving reduced monthly benefits from the program.

A reduced monthly SSDI payment is the result of several factors including:

  • Insufficient work credits (you haven’t worked enough or at all in the past decade)
  • Poor work history when you became disabled
  • Becoming disabled while young, inability to create a sufficient work history
  • Low earning wages throughout your job history

These factors may affect the amount of SSDI benefits you receive due to payments being dependent on minimum health eligibility requirements and having enough work credits gathered from the entire span of your work history.

SSI is a financial need-dependent program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and funded by general tax revenue, whereas SSDI is paid for by specifically the Social Security tax. Any income from “measurable sources” is evaluated by the SSA to decide whether you meet the administration’s criteria to qualify for the SSI program.

Measurable income consists of earned income in addition to multiple forms of “unearned income.” SSDI payments are viewed as “unearned income.” Plainly, any income you earn cannot be more than the set minimums of the SSI program.

In most cases, SSI unearned income minimums are established at $710 each month; but in some states, the minimum is raised.

Being able to qualify for the SSI program is not simple. Income, whether it’s earned or unearned, is recognized when calculating financial need. However, financial resources or assets are also considered.

SSI eligibility comes with a total available asset maximum in addition to the monthly limit on income. Asset limits are established at $2,000 for a person and $3,000 for married couples.

If your income and assets exceed the limits to be eligible for SSI benefits, you could still potentially qualify for SSDI. Vice versa, if you don’t possess the sufficient work history to get SSDI benefits, you could still be eligible for SSI benefits. If you possess certain financial and medical conditions, there are situations where you can be eligible for both SSI and SSDI benefits concurrently.