The Social Security Administration (SSA) is the federal agency responsible for evaluating and processing disability claims. Social Security benefits are handled under two federal programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While they are often conflated, SSDI and SSI are two wholly distinct disability programs. Applicants must understand the differences.

SSDI and SSI share some important similarities. For example, they are both federal programs that pay direct cash assistance (disability benefits) to qualified individuals who cannot work on a full-time basis due to a medical condition. Still, there are some key differences in how these programs are administered and who can receive benefits through SSDI and SSI. Here are the three most important differences:

Differences Between SSDI and SSI: Explained 

  • SSDI is an Earned Entitlement, SSI is Strictly Needs-Based: The primary difference between these two programs is that SSDI is only available to workers who have “paid in” to the system—meaning an applicant must have a sufficient work history to receive disability benefits. In contrast, SSI is a strictly needs-based program. Your financial eligibility for SSI benefits depends on income, not on work history. Even children can apply for SSI benefits.
  • SSDI Beneficiaries Get Medicare, SSI Beneficiaries Get Medicaid: Both SSDI and SSI offer a path to federal health care benefits. After a 24-month qualifying period, SSDI beneficiaries are covered by Medicare. In contrast, SSI beneficiaries receive their federal health coverage through Medicaid.
  • Monthly Disability Payments Can Vary Widely: SSDI and SSI monthly disability payments can vary widely. As a general rule, SSDI beneficiaries receive a higher level of monthly support through Social Security disability. A recipient’s precise monthly benefits will depend on several factors.
  • Both SSDI and SSI are complicated. Unfortunately, many qualified applicants run into problems and struggle to get access to the full disability benefits that they are entitled to under the law. Please remember that professional guidance and support is always available. If you need help filing your SSDI claim or help filing an SSI claim, reach out to an experienced Social Security disability attorney.
  • SSDI will support you in the event that you have a long history of work, and you have paid into Social Security in earlier work years. To be eligible, you need to have been working for five of the most recent ten years. SSDI will help if you are seriously handicapped and are unable to work in your field. The clinical issues must meet the Social Security disability requirements, and SSDI will also pay qualified relatives. SSI will give you money for your needs, like a place to live, clothes, and food. SSI pays out cash based on your money related need. The program will grant benefits if you have low income and are 65 or above, if you are crippled because of an ailment, or on the off chance that you are visually impaired.
  • Approval rates for SSDI are higher than SSI. There are various explanations behind this. To start with, SSDI applicants are more likely to have a higher salary and insurance, which means they’re bound to have seen a doctor for their clinical issues, as compared to SSI applicants. Also, judges and case examiners give greater credibility to candidates who have a long work history, which most SSI candidates don’t have.
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Lara Herrington
With over 12 years of experience, she is a proficient content writer and editor specializing in a diverse range of subjects, including technology news, country news, arts, science, travel, and automobiles.


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