The disability attorneys at Disability Associates explain the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are two separate government programs that provide financial assistance to disabled individuals. While both programs require that the applicant’s physical or mental disability is expected to last for a minimum of 12 months or until death, each program has different conditions, requirements and outcomes.

If you or a family member are interested in applying to receive Social Security benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), understanding the difference between the two programs is critical to help determine which program you are eligible for and which will best suit your needs.


SSDI benefits are granted to disabled applicants who have worked for a certain number of years and have made contributions to the Social Security trust fund via FICA Social Security taxes. Since SSDI is a program funded through payroll taxes, the higher the individual’s salary is at the time of application, the higher the monthly benefits will be. Under SSDI, benefits are also payable to an applicant’s spouse and children.

This program was created to allow people who become disabled while in the workforce (but not necessarily as a result of the work itself) to receive their Social Security retirement benefits prior to official retirement.

In order to remain eligible for SSDI benefits, candidates must wait until they reach between 65 and 67 years of age, depending on the year of birth. Individuals can apply for benefits as early as age 62, but at the cost of a reduction in monthly payments. After receiving SSDI benefits for two years, the disabled individual automatically gets covered by Medicare.


Conversely, SSI is strictly a needs-based program that considers a disabled individual’s current financial status, including income, assets and debts, and financial need rather than work history. In order for a disabled individual to qualify for SSI benefits, he or she cannot earn above the “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) limit, which is currently $1,090 per month. Applicants are allowed to work a minimal amount throughout the application process, but they become ineligible when their income exceeds the SGA.

Since SSI is needs-based, there is no age limit for when one can apply for benefits – the time to apply is when an applicant becomes unable to work because of a disability. Although SSI generally applies to adults, children under the age of 18 may qualify if they meet the SSA’s definition of “disabled” and are within the eligibility limits for household income and resources.

Furthermore, medical evidence plays a substantial role through the SSI application process, so it’s critical that applicants of all ages collect the appropriate documentation that supports the presence of a long-lasting disability.

The disability attorneys at Disability Associates provide legal representation to disabled individuals who have applied to receive Social Security benefits through the SSI program. For more information about the difference between SSDI and SSI or your individual Social Security disability circumstances, contact Disability Associates today.