SSI vs SSDI: 5 Key Differences Explained

Social Security Card Treasury Check And 100 Dollar Bills On Desk

If you are unable to work due to a disability, you might be looking for assistance programs in which you can enroll. In addition to disability benefits, some of these programs also provide benefits to low-income seniors and other individuals. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are two of the most common programs you might hear about. There are some similarities between the two, but there are also some big differences.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers both of these critical Social Security benefit programs, but there are differences in eligibility criteria, payment amounts, and other details. If you are considering applying for SSI or SSDI benefits, then keep reading. We will give you all the details on each program and tell you the big differences between the two.


What Is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Office workers processing SSI and SSDI applications.

Supplemental Security Income is a federal program that provides financial assistance to low-income seniors and those who are unable to work due to a disability. To qualify for the program, you must have a financial need. A person’s income must be below certain limits, and the person must also have limited resources. For example, someone with a large savings account at a bank could not qualify for SSI benefits. Payments associated with SSI are usually fairly small, although no work history is required to qualify for benefits.

Many states also supplement the SSI program with state-sponsored benefits. In addition, SSI recipients automatically qualify for many other assistance programs. SSI recipients might also receive food stamps, housing assistance, a government cell phone, Medicaid, and other benefits. As part of the application process for SSI, you will need to provide evidence of your financial need. This evidence might be in the form of tax returns, bank statements, or other evidence showing your financial situation. Many people wonder, “Is SSI the same as disability?” While you can get SSI because of a disability, SSI is not the same thing as Social Security disability insurance. SSDI will be discussed more in the next section.


What Is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

SSDI benefits are financial benefits paid to those who are unable to work due to a disability and who have enough work history to qualify for SSDI. No financial need is necessary to qualify for SSDI benefits, although SSDI recipients must have a sufficient work history to qualify for benefits. In general, a person must work for ten years to earn enough work credits to qualify for SSDI. Monthly payment amounts are based on how much money the person earned while working.

The application process for Social Security disability benefits is quite lengthy in most cases. It is not uncommon for a person to wait two years from their application date before finally getting approved for disability benefits. In many cases, an initial application might be denied, and the applicant may need to hire an attorney and appeal the decision to ultimately get approved for benefits. Once a person has received SSDI benefits for 24 months, they become eligible for health insurance through Medicare. An eligible spouse or dependent child might also qualify for SSDI payments based on the work history of the primary earner.


SSI Vs. SSDI: Key Differences In Disability Benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance

Both of these federal benefit programs are administered by the Social Security Administration, and both programs provide financial assistance to those with disabilities. So, what is the difference between SSI and SSDI? There are some major differences, and here are the biggest ones.


— Eligibility Criteria

One of the biggest differences between SSI and SSDI is the eligibility criteria. Qualifying for SSDI benefits requires that you have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a sufficient period of time to earn enough work credits. Generally, this means that you have worked and paid payroll taxes for at least ten years. You must also have an impairment that prevents you from performing a substantial gainful activity. The Social Security Administration has strict guidelines and definitions for the conditions that qualify as a disability. If you meet these two criteria, then you can get SSDI benefits.

SSI benefits, on the other hand, do not require a work history or earnings record. You can qualify for the SSI disability program even if you have never worked at all. However, you must have a financial need. Generally, you must earn less than $1,767 per month and have less than $2,000 in resources. In addition, SSI is not just for disabled people. You can also qualify for SSI benefits if you are blind or are age 65 or older.


— Application Process

The application process for SSI and SSDI is slightly different. One of the main differences here is the method in which the application is completed. You can apply for SSDI benefits online through a My Social Security account at You will be able to complete the entire SSDI application process online, although you can choose to visit your local Social Security office or complete the application over the phone.

For SSI benefits, you may start your application online. However, after providing some basic information, a Social Security representative will schedule an appointment for you to complete your application. You will need to provide evidence of your financial need during the application process.


— Benefit Amounts

There is also a big difference in the monthly benefit amount between the SSI program and the Social Security disability insurance program. SSI payments are typically much lower than SSDI payments. The maximum monthly SSI payment for an adult in 2022 is $841, while the average SSI payment is only about $600 per month. As you can see, SSI is meant to be more of a financial safety net than a way to earn money.

The maximum amount that you can receive on SSDI benefits is about $3,300 per month, but the average amount received by an SSDI beneficiary is about $1,300 per month. Roughly 90% of SSDI beneficiaries receive less than $2,000 per month. There is also a five-month waiting period for SSDI benefits. This means that you will not start receiving benefits until five months after the onset of your disability. There is no waiting period for SSI benefits.


— Length Of Benefits

The length of time you receive benefits can also differ between these two programs. Many people who receive federal SSI payments will receive them for the rest of their lives, especially those who are approved after age 65. Younger individuals can receive SSI benefits as long as they are disabled and continue to have financial need.

SSDI claimants, on the other hand, might switch over to Social Security retirement benefits upon reaching retirement age. Similarly, SSDI benefits stop once the recipient is no longer disabled. You might be required to provide evidence from your medical provider of a continued disability if you are subject to ongoing medical reviews.


— Healthcare Coverage

There is a major difference in the type of healthcare you will receive between these two programs. Most SSI recipients will qualify for Medicaid through their state’s Medicaid office. Medicaid is the health care program provided to low-income individuals and families, and participation in SSI will usually automatically qualify you for Medicaid.

On the other hand, SSDI beneficiaries become eligible for Medicare after receiving SSDI payments for 24 months. You might think that Medicare is only for retirees, but the program also covers disabled people who are receiving SSDI payments. SSDI recipients will generally be automatically enrolled in Medicare coverage after their 24th month in the SSDI program.

Can You Get Both SSI & SSDI Benefits?

As you can see, there are some significant differences between the SSI and SSDI programs. But, can you get benefits from both? The answer is yes! Here is how that can happen. Some people are approved for SSDI benefits, but their payments are very low. In that case, the person might also qualify for cash benefits from the SSI program as well if they have limited resources. So, if your monthly payments through SSDI are below the SSI limit and you also have limited resources, then you might qualify for payments through both programs. You can always seek the help of an experienced disability attorney to help you navigate that complex situation.


The Bottom Line

U.S. citizens who are disabled and unable to work might apply for benefits through SSI or SSDI. Both benefit programs provide monthly payments to recipients and their eligible family members, but there are some big differences between the two programs. SSDI requires a sufficient work history, while SSI does not. SSI requires a financial need, while SSDI has no income limit. SSDI payments are usually much higher than SSI payments. In fact, SSDI payments are usually double SSI payment amounts, on average. If you believe you might qualify for either program, you should contact the Social Security Administration to start your application.


Frequently Asked Questions


Which is better: SSI or SSDI?

Many people believe that SSDI benefits are better than SSI benefits. The reason for this is that SSDI payments are typically much higher than SSI payments. However, the answer might depend on which program you can qualify for. You will need to have a sufficient work history to qualify for SSDI benefits. If you do not qualify for SSDI payments, then SSI payments might be your only option. For those who need help, participation in SSI is better than no help at all.


What is the average SSI payment?

The average SSI payment in 2022 is just over $600. The maximum payment for 2022 is $841 for an individual and $1,261 for an individual with an eligible spouse. As you can see, these amounts are not really enough to cover basic living expenses in most cases. This is why SSI beneficiaries often automatically qualify for other programs, such as housing assistance, food stamps, and Medicaid.


Which is easier to get: SSI or disability?

In most cases, SSI is easier to get than Social Security disability. SSI does not require a work history, and SSI does not even require you to have a disability in some cases. Anyone age 65 or older with a financial need can qualify for SSI payments. For those with a disability, no work history is required to qualify for SSI. SSDI usually requires a work history of ten years, so most people agree that SSI is easier to get than SSDI.


What are the benefits of SSDI?

One of the most significant benefits of SSDI is that you can get monthly payments while you are disabled and unable to work. These payments can pay for housing, food, or other critical items for you and your family. This benefit program provides an essential financial benefit for those who cannot earn a living due to an impairment. In many cases, SSDI payments can help bridge the gap until the person’s condition improves and they can return to work.