Confused between SSDI or SSI? Here’s what’s not common in them

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

The Social Security Administration (SSA) runs both the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under the Federal programs. The disability guidelines stated by the SSA are the same for both the programs which is stated in the Blue Book. An American who qualifies the federal definition of disability stated in the Blue Book automatically becomes eligible for applying for social security to the SSA. However, the similarities between the two programs end here.

While SSI is a need-based program allotted to the disabled people who need financial assistance the most, the SSDI is more of an entitlement program which is only granted if you have enough credit of work history after of course being eligible in the disability handbook as stated above.

Eligibility Requirements

SSI eligibility requirements differ from the SSDI eligibility requirements apart from the disability.

For SSI eligibility the value of your assets should not exceed the monthly income of $2000 for singles and $3000 for couples. The things SSA counts as your assets include real estate, bonds, stock, cash and bank accounts. However, SSA would exclude a personal car and a single home as resources while considering your application.

Whereas, to qualify for SSDI you must first have worked in the jobs listed under the SSA’s list of covered jobs. Secondly, you must meet the disability requirements as mentioned in the SSA’s Blue Book of Impairments that is also updated regularly. Thirdly, you must not be earning above the threshold of substantial gainful activity, SGA as set by the SSA. Also, this is to say that you must not be earning above the income threshold set by the SSA. Lastly, the SSA requires your disability to last atleast one full year or 12 consecutive months meeting the above requirements to be able to apply for disability benefits.

Apart from the requirements for each, the SSA also looks into your medical records, previous history, physician’s opinions and your employer’s or colleague’s testimonies regarding your disability and how it impacts your work ability under SGA.

Work-hour Requirements

For SSDI eligibility, you need to earn a minimum of 40 work credits in your lifetime and paid social security taxes just like insurance premiums are paid to get the benefits. In 2020, you receive one credit for each $1,410 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits per year. Each year the amount of earnings needed for credits goes up slightly as average earnings levels increase according to the AIME index that is set by averaging the inflation rates. The credits you earn remain on your Social Security record even if you change jobs or have no earnings for a while or start a business later on.

Often times, the SSA allows self employed individuals to be able to carry out substantial gainful acitivity for upto 45 hours/month and still remain eligible to apply for disability benefits. In 2020, the monthly earnings limit is $2110 for blind and $1260 for non-blind individuals.

Also, you need to be able to have a minimum of 40 work credits in your lifetime, 20 of which should have been earned within 10 years prior to your disability.

You can qualify and win disability benefits by earning Social Security credits when you work in a job and pay Social Security taxes. The SSA uses Social Security credits on the amount of your earnings.

You may be able to receive both SSI and SSDI benefits if you have enough work hour credits accumulated in your lifetime and if you net income at the time of application is less than that stated in the SSI eligibility.

Method of Benefits (SSDI vs SSI)

You would receive cash payments for your SSDI claims if approved. But, if you are receiving both benefits your net benefit amount could not exceed the SSI amount.

How to Apply for SSDI paychecks?

As mentioned, the SSDI is a need-based program run by the Social Security Administration under Federal Rule. Each state has its own set of thresholds for the amount of disability paychecks you would receive as a disabled applicant, however, the set of rules required for eligibility of SSDI benefits remains the same.

You can apply directly by registering yourself at the Social Security Administration’s Official Website or have a disability advocate represent you.

About the Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.  Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.