What is SSDI and SSI, and How Are They Different?

It’s not uncommon to see people mistake these programs for each other or assume they are both the same. Although they are both federally funded for disabled people, there are still core differences between them. I’ve written this article to help you learn about these differences in terms of definition, eligibility requirements, and application process.

Supplemental Security Income is a program financed by general fund taxes and designed to assist low-income disabled or older adults financially. SSI is strictly based on needs, meaning that you must be a low-income earner to qualify for this assistance program. Usually, a person who qualifies for SSI automatically qualifies for other assistance programs like Medicaid and food stamps.

Social Security Disability, however, is financed through payroll taxes. Unlike SSI, SSD is not based on needs but the work credits of the applicants. The disabled applicant must have been in the workforce for an approved number of years and paid Social Security taxes to be eligible.

SSD beneficiaries only qualify for other assistance programs like Medicaid after two years of receiving disability benefits.

The Six Eligibility Requirements for SSI

To qualify for SSI, you must meet certain disability, income, citizenship, and age requirements, and they are as follows:

  • You must have a disability, be visually impaired, or be no younger than 65 years old. The disability must be as a result of a medical condition that prevents you from getting a job and is expected to either go on for at least a year or lead to death.
  • You must have limited income. Your income includes the money you earn, your Social Security benefits, pension, and the monetary worth of items you acquire from someone else, such as food and shelter. The income requirements depend on the state you live in
  • You must have limited resources. These include things that belong to you, such as money, bank accounts, stocks, and bonds. Resources like the house you live in and your car are usually not counted. Most often, your resources must not be worth more than $2000 for an individual and $3000 for a married couple living together to be eligible for SSI.
  • You must lawfully reside in one of the 50 U.S states, District of Columbia, or the Northern Marina Islands.
  • You must not be away from the country for 30 or more consecutive days at the application time.
  • You must not be restricted to a government institution such as a hospital or prison.

How to Make a Claim for Your SSI Benefits

You can claim your SSI benefits online, by phone, or in-person at a local office. Although applying online is the easiest way, you’d have to meet certain criteria to be allowed to do so. You may qualify to complete your application online if

  • You are an adult between the ages of 18 and 65
  • You have never been married
  • You are a citizen of the U.S, residing in one of the 50 states, or the Northern Marina Islands
  • You have neither previously received nor applied for SSI benefits
  • You are applying for SSD at the same time

After you’ve submitted your online application, a representative may contact you by phone or mail if additional information is required. And if you didn’t make the online application yourself due to acceptable reasons, they will contact you to

  • Verify your intent to file
  • Confirm the provided information
  • Supply any additional information
  • Provide a verbal signature or other relevant documents.

If you can’t make an online application, you could always contact them by phone to fix an appointment over the phone or in-person at a local Social Security Office.

Before you begin your application, the agency will let you know the required and accepted documents. You will most often need to provide your Social Security number, work history, a medical source where necessary, and proof of age, citizenship, income, and resources.

The Five Eligibility Requirements for SSD

To qualify for SSD, you must meet the below criteria:

  • The jobs you worked in must have been under Social Security.
  • You must have been in the work force long enough and recently, too, to obtain the required amount of work credits. The required work credits depend on the age you get d isabled. You can learn about the work credit and duration requirements for different ages here.
  • You must have a medical issue that fits in the Social Security’s description of ‘disabled.’
  • You must be unfit to work for not less than a year as a result of your disability.
  • Your disability must not be partial, but total.

If you are qualified in terms of work history, Social Security then makes use of a 5-step process involving questions to determine if your condition qualifies you as a disabled person:

  • Are you working? If you are, ideally, you do not qualify.
  • Is your condition severe? By severe, they mean you must be unfit to do simple tasks like lifting, standing, walking, or even remembering, for no less than a year.
  • Is your health issue among SSA’s list of disabling conditions?
  • Can you do your previous job in your condition? If you can, then you do not qualify.
  • Can your condition allow you to do any other type of work? Social Security will consider some factors, including your transferable skills, to determine if you can do any different kind of work. If you possibly can, then you do not qualify.

How to  Make a Claim for Your SSD Benefits

You can also claim your SSD benefits online, by phone, or in-person at a local office. However, to apply online, you’ll have to create a My Social Security account and download the disability checklist to help you gather the information you’ll need to complete the application.

Processing a disability claim often takes between 3 – 5 months, and gathering all necessary information and documents in time will help speed things up. Social Security has created a Disability Starter Kit for adults and children to provide all the required information and make the application process more straightforward.

After applying for SSD, the SSA will evaluate the employment information you provided and determine if it meets their basic work requirements. If it does, they will forward your claim to your state’s Disability Determination Services to evaluate your medical case.

If you meet all requirements, SSA will send you an approval letter containing the benefit amount you’ll receive monthly and the date it becomes effective. You will receive disability benefits until you’re able to work again regularly.

SSI and SSD differ in a couple of ways, including eligibility requirements and application process. It’s possible to receive SSI and SSD as long as you qualify for both and meet the income requirements.

Both claims can be made online, by phone, or at a local office. But you must ensure you have all necessary information and documents ready before you begin, to speed up the application process.


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