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The Difference Between SSI and SSDI

By Jennifer L. Foster, RN, Attorney-at-Law

While many people don’t distinguish between Supplement Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), they are two completely different governmental programs. Both programs are overseen and managed by the Social Security Administration, and medical eligibility for disability is determined in the same manner for both programs. Only individuals who have a disability and meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under either program.

The main difference between SSDI and SSI is how you qualify for the benefit. SSDI is available to workers who have a sufficient number of work credits. SSI is considered an entitlement program and is available to low-income individuals who have either never worked or who haven’t earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI.

What is SSI?
SSI is a program that is strictly need-based, according to income and assets, and is funded by general fund taxes (not from the Social Security trust fund). SSI is means tested, meaning it has nothing to do with work history but strictly with financial need. To meet the financial limitation, you must have less than $2,000 in assets (or $3,000 for a couple) and a very limited income.

Disabled people who are eligible under the income requirements for SSI are also able to receive Medicaid in the state they reside in. Most people who qualify for SSI will also qualify for food stamps, and the amount an eligible person will receive is dependent on where they live and the amount of regular, monthly income they have. Once you are approved, SSI benefits will usually begin on the first of the month following your application date. Sometimes, however, SSA will find you disabled on a date after your application and will start your benefits then.

The monthly maximum federal amounts for 2017 are $735 for an eligible individual or $1,103 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse. These amounts are subject to decrease based on other income/resources that are coming into the household. Once you’re awarded SSI disability benefits, your financial records will be reviewed every year. However, as a recipient of these benefits, you are obligated to report any financial change or change in your household immediately to the Administration.

What is SSDI?
SSDI pays benefits to you and sometimes certain members of your family if you are “insured,” meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.

SSDI is funded through payroll taxes. SSDI recipients are considered “insured” because they have worked for a certain number of years and have made contributions to the Social Security trust fund in the form of FICA Social Security taxes.

SSDI candidates must have earned a certain number of work credits. If you become disabled before you reach the age of 24, you may qualify if you have 6 credits earned in the 3-year period ending when your disability starts. If you are between 24 and 31, you may qualify if you have credit for working half the time between age 21 and the time you become disabled. For example, if you become disabled at age 27, you would need credit for 3 years of work (12 credits) out of the past 6 years (between ages 21 and 27). If you are over 31, you need to have earned 20 work credits in the past 10 years before you became disabled to be eligible for SSDI.

There is a five month waiting period for benefits, meaning that the SSA won’t pay you benefits for the first five months after you become disabled. The month following this five month withholding period is known as the date of entitlement. The amount of the monthly benefit after the waiting period is over depends on your earnings record. Medicare will begin two years from your date of entitlement.

In both SSDI and SSI cases, your medical records will be checked periodically to be sure that you are still disabled. If SSA determines that you are still disabled, then benefits will continue. If SSA determines that you are no longer disabled, then benefits, both monetary and health insurance, will stop.

The disability process can be a very difficult and lengthy process. In the midst of a health crisis, you are dealing with enough; let me fight this battle for you! Contact the Law Office of Jennifer L. Foster, PLLC at 731-506-4006 to discuss which legal strategies will get you the benefits you deserve, or visit us online at

The information in this article is for general information purposes only. Nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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