SSDI vs. SSI – Key Differences, Benefits, and How to Apply

There are several federal benefits programs that offer financial assistance to seniors and persons living with disabilities. Two of the most commonly sought after programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

SSDI benefits are federally administered and funded by the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you have worked long enough and have a qualifying disability that prevents you from working for at least 12 months or is expected to end in death, the SSA will pay you and certain members of your family disability benefits.

What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees the SSI benefit program, which provides monthly payments to elderly, blind, and disabled individuals facing significant financial hardships.

SSI is administered, but not paid for by the SSA. SSI payments are primarily funded by general Treasury revenues, in contrast to general Social Security benefits, which are largely funded by the taxes that the majority of working people pay into Social Security. Most states supplement these government benefits with installments of their own.

What is the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?

The major difference between these two programs is that SSDI eligibility is based on disability type and number of work credits, whereas SSI eligibility is based on disability, age, and lack of income.

Additionally, most states will automatically qualify SSI recipients for Medicaid. SSDI recipients will automatically qualify for Medicare after 24 months of receiving disability payments. Note, individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) qualify for Medicare immediately.

A 2024 Comparison of SSI and SSDI

FactorSSDISSI
Eligibility based onDisability AND sufficient work credits through employment.Age (65+) OR blindness (any age) OR disability (any age) AND limited/no income and resources.
When benefits beginAfter 6th full months of disability; 6-month period begins with the first full month after the date SSA decides the disability started.
1st full month after the date the claim was filed OR the date eligible for SSI.
Average monthly benefit$1,537$641
Maximum monthly benefit$3,822$943 / $1,415 (single / married couple)
Health insuranceAutomatically qualify for Medicare after a 24-month waiting period after benefits begin (no waiting period for people with ALS).Automatically qualify for Medicaid upon approval of SSI (in most states)

How Do I Apply for SSDI or SSI?

Applications for SSDI or SSI benefits can be submitted online or by phone at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). However, it is strongly advised to have a legal representative or attorney in your corner at this stage to ensure the best chance for approval. If you need a legal representative or attorney to assist you with your claim, contact us today for a free case evaluation.

Note, 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 the number listed above. Check our Social Security Field Office Locator for the nearest office in your state.

Frequently Asked Questions

The SSA uses a strict definition of disability that relates to your ability to perform work and the estimated length of your disability. The submission of medical records is required to support your application, so it is imperative that you are treating your condition with a doctor. Short-term or partial disabilities do not qualify for SSDI or SSI.

Application review times can vary greatly, but the average wait is between 3-5 months from the date of application.

Note, people who have severe disabilities that fall under Social Security’s Compassionate Allowances (CAL) classification will receive expedited review of their SSDI/SSI applications.

Though it is possible to secure Social Security retirement benefits early (beginning at age 62), it is advised that you apply for SSDI instead. Taking retirement early reduces the amount of your benefit for the rest of your life. Your SSDI benefit amount on the other hand would be equal to your full Social Security retirement age benefit.

Taking early retirement is only advised if you absolutely need the income while waiting to hear about your SSDI application. If you are found to have met the disability requirements before you began to receive early retirement, you would be entitled to retroactive benefits equal to the difference between your early retirement payment and what you were entitled to for SSDI.

According to the SSA, over 53% of SSDI and SSI applicants are denied during the initial application phase. If you believe you qualify for benefits and have been wrongly denied, contact us today to begin the appeals process.

See if You Qualify for Disability Benefits

You could be entitled to $3,822 a month. See if you qualify today!

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