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

Understanding Social Security Benefits

The Social Security Administration operates two disability benefits programs. When you apply for disability, you have to be aware of the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance(SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income(SSI). SSDI requires a certain amount of work credits while SSI is based off financial needs. Below you will find more information about these two programs.

What is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) makes monthly payments to people who have low income and few resources, and who are:

  • Age 65 or older;
  • Blind; or
  • Disabled

What is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are "insured," meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. Since SSDI is based on FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) taxes you paid throughout your working career, it entirely disregards how much money you have or do not have.

Comparison Chart of SSI and SSDI

Eligibility based onAge (65+) OR blindness (any age) OR disability (any age) AND limited /no income and resourcesDisability AND sufficient work credits through own/family employment
When benefits begin1st full month after the date the claim was filed or, if later the date found eligible for SSI6th full month of disability; 6-month period begins with the first full month after the date SSA decides the disability began
Average benefit (monthly)$574 (as of Jan. 2020)$1,258 (as of 2020)
Maximum benefit (monthly)$783 / $1,175 (single/marrid couple) in 2020$3, 011 (based on work history) in 2020
Health InsuranceAutomatically qualifies for Medicad upon reciept of SSI (in most states)Automatically qualifies for Medicare after a 24-month waiting period from time benefits begin (no waiting period for persons with ALS)

Can I have both SSI and SSDI?

Yes, it is possible that if you have both limited income/resources and a work history, you can qualify for both benefits.

How do I apply for SSI or SSDI?

You can now file for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) online but only if you meet certain requirements. You are eligible to file online for SSI if you:

  • Are between the ages of 18 and 65;
  • Have never been married;
  • Aren't blind;
  • Are a U.S. citizen residing in one of the fifty states
  • Haven't applied for or received SSI benefits in the past; and
  • Are applying for SSDI at the same time as your SSI claim

SSI applications are not available online for people applying for a child under age 18 with a disability or a non-disabled senior aged 65+. These individuals must visit their local Social Security office or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

You can apply for SSDI benefits online at any age. You also can apply by calling Social Security at the number above or at your local office.

How long does it take to get a decision after I apply for disability benefits?

The time it takes to get a decision on your disability application can vary depending on:

  • The nature of your disability
  • How quickly they get your medical evidence from your doctor;
  • Whether its necessary for them to send you for a medical examination

It varies widely, but average wait time is 3-5 months. People who have severe disabilities that fall under Social Security’s Compassionate Allowances (CAL) classification will receive expedited review of their SSI/SSDI applications.

What happens if my application is rejected?

At Neighborhood Legal Services we represent, and provide legal advice for individuals facing terminations or denials of public benefits. Apply online by clicking here, or request services at 1-866-761-6572.

What if you have / are a child, or young adult with a disability?

At Neighborhood Legal Services we have a grant to expand social security assistance to disabled children and those turning 18 years of age, or graduating secondary school. Apply online by clicking here or request services at 1-866-761-6572.

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