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What is the Difference Between SSI and SSDI?

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

When you are disabled and trying to untangle the web of jargon associated with Social Security benefits, it is easy to become frustrated. The terminology is confusing and often difficult to decode. Even the most basic questions regarding what benefits you may qualify for can be enough to send you through a loop. We hope that we can provide you with some helpful information to guide you in your Social Security benefits journey. Here, we will take a look at the difference between two different Social Security benefit programs: SSI and SSDI.

What is the Difference Between SSI and SSDI?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is tasked with administering both the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and the Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) disability benefits programs. While the two programs sound similar, there are important distinctions between the two. Some people may qualify for one program, but not the other. Other times, a person may qualify for both programs.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a disability benefit program designed for those with limited income. In order to qualify for SSI benefits, you must meet the income qualification threshold. The threshold is meant to include only those with little to no income. You must also either be 65 years or older or disabled or blind. Those applicants who are 65 years of age or older do not need to prove that they are either disabled or blind. Those younger than 65 years of age can still qualify for SSI benefits, but they must either be disabled or blind. Partial blindness may suffice.

The income limit requirement for SSI benefits is essential to qualify for the program. In order to determine whether a claimant meets the income requirement, it will look to a number of different factors. Income level is not just important to see if you qualify for SSI, but will also be relevant in determining your benefits should you qualify. You see, the benefits for which you qualify under SSI will be adjusted based on your income level.

Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), on the other hand, is available to individuals who are both disabled and have sufficient work credits. There is no age requirement, but a claimant’s work history is essential. The claimant must have a certain length of employment history in order to qualify for SSDI benefits. The general rule of thumb is that a person is able to earn up to 4 work credits per year and the SSDI program requires a minimum of 40 credits to qualify. At least 20 of those 40 required work credits must have been earned in the past 10 years.

A person can qualify for both SSI and SSDI benefits. For instance, a disabled individual who has limited income and sufficient work credits would likely qualify for both. It is important to note, however, that receiving one benefit type would likely offset the amount of benefits a person would qualify in regard to the other benefit type, and vice versa.

Disability Attorney

Do you feel like you are wading through alphabet soup when it comes to all of the Social Security Administration acronyms regarding disability benefits? Let the team at Disability Advocates help keep you afloat and navigate the process together. Contact us today.

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.