Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are federal programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Neither program is the same as Social Security Retirement, which partially replaces the incomes of most U.S. citizens when they retire.
Both SSI and SSDI provide financial benefits to Americans who are physically or mentally disabled, over 65, or blind if their disabilities prevent them from working, but one program is need-based, and the other is not. If you have a disability, it’s important for you to understand the similarities and differences between SSI and SSDI so you can apply for the right program. Our legal team can help you through the process.
Definition of Disability
For purposes of receiving SSI or SSDI benefits, the SSA considers you disabled if:
- You have a mental or physical disability that will last or has lasted at least one year or will continue for the rest of your life.
- Your disability and the symptoms that you have are included in the SSA’s “Blue Book,” which is a listing of conditions that qualify you for SSI or SSDI.
- Your disability hinders your ability to perform daily activities or to work at any job for which you’re qualified.
- You are not engaged in substantial gainful employment. In 2023, this means your monthly income must be less than $1,470 (or $2,460 if blind).
Your eligibility for benefits must be supported by medical records and tax returns. While both SSI and SSDI are administered by the same agency, there are significant differences between the two programs.
Supplemental Security Income
SSI differs from SSDI in terms of funding, eligibility, benefit amount, start of benefits, and approval rates.
SSI benefits are paid by the general fund of the U.S. Treasury.
Eligibility for SSI is based on your financial need and has nothing to do with your work history or past earnings. When you apply for SSI, the SSA considers your current financial situation, your assets, and the income you receive to determine whether you’re eligible for benefits. As of 2023, your monthly household income may not exceed $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple.
Amount of Benefits
The amount of your SSI benefits depends on your income and your location. As of 2023, the maximum monthly SSI payment is $914 for an individual and $1,371 for a couple. Your monthly housing cost is considered in the determination of your benefit amount, and some states increase your SSI payment with a state supplement. The average monthly payment in 2023 is approximately $700.
When Benefits Start
If you’re found eligible for SSI, you should start receiving benefits at the beginning of the first month after the month in which you filed your application.
SSI recipients are generally eligible for state-based Medicaid and food stamps or EBT cards.
The approval rate for SSI is generally lower than that for SSDI. More women than men generally apply for and receive SSI benefits.
Social Security Disability Income
SSDI provides early retirement benefits for people who develop disabilities before their normal retirement age. SSDI differs from SSI in several ways.
SSDI is funded by the Social Security Trust Fund. Approximately 15 cents of every dollar you pay in FICA Social Security taxes goes into this fund.
Eligibility for SSDI depends on how long you’ve worked and how much you’ve contributed in FICA Social Security taxes or SECA self-employment taxes. At the time when you apply, you’re generally required to have worked for five of the past ten years, but young applicants might qualify with fewer years of work and smaller contributions. You must be at least 18 to apply for SSDI.
Amount of Benefits
If your application is approved, your benefit amount will be the same as the amount you would receive in Social Security retirement benefits. The longer you’ve worked and the more you’ve paid into the system, the higher your benefit amount will be. The maximum monthly amount as of 2023 is $3,627, but the average payment is approximately $1,700.
When Benefits Start
You must wait five months after you’ve become disabled before you start receiving SSDI benefits. It is possible, however, for you to receive retroactive benefits dating back to one year before the date of your application.
Two years after you begin receiving SSDI benefits, you’ll be eligible for Medicare (unless you turn 65 or develop a degenerative disease before two years have passed). Your spouse and children may receive auxiliary benefits, but children may not apply directly for SSDI.
SSDI applicants have higher approval rates than SSI applicants for the following reasons:
- Claims examiners and courts tend to favor applicants with longer work histories, which SSDI applicants generally have.
- SSDI applicants are more likely to see doctors for their medical problems because they have better incomes and more insurance coverage than SSI applicants do. Medical documentation is necessary for approval from either program.
- SSDI applicants are more likely to retain Social Security attorneys to assist with their applications and represent them at appeal hearings. Having legal representation makes you twice as likely to receive benefits.
If you’re approved for SSDI but receive only a low payment, a Social Security lawyer can help you decide whether to apply for SSI, as well.
Are You Under 65 and Disabled?
An experienced attorney can help you seek the benefits you deserve after a disability has left you unable to work in Virginia. Contact us online or call us at 540-341-0007 to schedule your free consultation in Warrenton, Front Royal, or Culpeper. You pay no attorney fees until we get you the benefits you deserve.