SSI vs SSDI: 3 Major Differences

  • March 15th, 2024

Young woman who uses a wheelchair withdraws cash from an ATM.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are both federal health care programs that provide cash payments to people who meet the federal definition of “disabled.” But the similarities between the two programs end there.

What Is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) gives people with limited income and resources monthly benefits that serve as an income supplement. These benefits are intended to help them cover the cost of basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing.

What Is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) offers financial assistance to people with disabilities, regardless of how much they make.

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Here are the three main differences between the two programs:

1. Each Program Uses Different Criteria

Although both of these programs are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), they have vastly different financial requirements.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Is a Means-Based Program

SSI seeks to meet the basic needs of blind and disabled individuals as well as adults 65 or older who would otherwise have a hard time paying for food and shelter. Because this program is narrowly tailored for this particular set of people, it has an extremely strict set of financial requirements. This is why it is known as a “means-tested” benefit.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Is an Entitlement Program

Social Security Disability Insurance, by contrast, is an entitlement program typically available to any person who has paid into the Social Security system for at least 10 years, regardless of their current income and assets. (Younger beneficiaries and disabled adult children of retired or deceased workers may have to meet different requirements.)

In theory, all qualified workers are potential disability benefits recipients, even high-income earners.

2. SSI and SSDI Recipients Get Access to Different Benefits

SSI Beneficiaries Typically Receive Medicaid

In most cases, a person who receives SSI immediately qualifies for Medicaid benefits.

Medicaid is a joint state and federal health care program that typically provides comprehensive coverage for its beneficiaries. Therefore, many people may apply for SSI primarily because of the health care that comes with it.

SSDI Provides Access to Medicare

On the other hand, SSDI beneficiaries are eligible to receive Medicare two years after they are deemed eligible for SSDI benefits. Medicare is a federal health insurance program that covers routine hospital services and most but not all primary medical care.

Medicare is not as comprehensive as Medicaid. Many Medicare beneficiaries purchase what are known as private “Medigap” policies to fill in the holes in their primary Medicare coverage.

3. The Financial Benefits Can Be Significantly Different

Finally, Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance benefits vary widely regarding the amount of money provided.

SSI Benefits

In 2024, the federal standard SSI benefit amount is $943 per month for an individual. (Most states augment this with a small additional payment.) For couples, the federal SSI payment standard is $1,415 per month.

Note that any other countable income that a person on SSI receives will cut into their SSI benefits. So, many SSI recipients ultimately receive less than $943.

SSDI Benefits

The average SSDI payment in 2024 equals $1,537 a month. This is an increase from $1,489 per month in 2023. Since SSDI is based on your earnings record, some SSDI recipients can receive much more than this. The maximum amount an SSDI recipient can get is $3,627 per month.

Note that, in most cases, if a person receives an SSDI benefit that is higher than the maximum SSI payment, they won’t be eligible for SSI.

Further Guidance

Consider consulting with a qualified special needs attorney in your area. They can help you better understand these Social Security benefit programs and other potential forms of public assistance.

Created date: 11/21/2014


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