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Social Security Disability Basics: SSDI vs. SSI
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are two of the most common social security programs for disabled individuals under 65.
SSDI is the program for disabled people who have a consistent work history and have paid social security taxes on income reported to the IRS. This program typically pays a higher benefit amount than SSI and can include Medicare eligibility.
SSI is the program for disabled individuals who do not have a consistent work history. They are not eligible for SSDI because they have not paid into the program. SSI is a needs-based program so it requires that the individual applying has limited available resources and almost no income.
SSDI is an “insurance” program that pays benefits to disabled individuals and certain family members who have a consistent work history. The “premiums” for the SSDI insurance program are paid out of a worker’s earnings via social security taxes. To qualify for SSDI, you must have worked long enough and recently enough to be considered “insured” under the program. This program typically pays more than SSI and there is no requirement that your available resources/assets are limited.
SSDI and SSI both require that you prove you are disabled under Social Security’s rules. This means that you must show with medical evidence that you have serious physical or mental conditions that have prevented you from working any job in the national economy for 12 months or more.
As stated above, you earn credits by paying social security taxes. The more you pay in social security taxes, the more credits you get, up to a maximum of four credits per year. Social security credits determine the amount of your SSDI payments.
When an individual turns 65, SSDI automatically transitions into Social Security Retirement.
SSDI will end if your conditions improve or you return to work and begin earning more than $1470 per month (as of 2023). If you work while receiving SSDI, you must report your income to the SSA. Social Security has a back-to-work program which allows individuals to work for a period of time while they are receiving benefits in order to “test the waters.” Eventually, benefits will end if you work long enough.
Sometimes, you may be eligible for SSDI without a work history if you meet one of the following specific requirements: (1) You’re a disabled widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse between age 50 and 60 with a disability that manifested before or within seven years of the spouse’s death or divorce; (2) You’re an adult with a disability that started before age 22. You may be entitled to receive benefits based on your parent’s social security earnings record.
Under the SSDI program, you automatically qualify for Medicare 24 months after disability benefits begin. However, if you have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or end-stage renal disease, you’re exempt from this waiting period.
SSI is a federal benefit program that provides financial assistance to very low-income Americans who are blind, have a qualifying disability, or are over 65.
SSI is a needs-based program. This means that you must have limited income and assets to qualify for SSI. As of June 2022, an individual must have less than $2,000 in financial assets to qualify for SSI. Some assets, such as a car or primary residence aren’t included when assets are calculated.
The Social Security Administration uses a complex formula to determine if you meet the income eligibility requirements for SSI. Generally, you qualify if your income is $1,767 monthly or less as of 2022.
Social Security will monitor your financial circumstance if you are approved for SSI while you are receiving benefits. Since SSI is a needs-based program, a change in your financial situation can change your eligibility for SSI or the amount of financial assistance you receive. You’re required to inform social security of any changes in financial circumstances, including: (1) a new job or increase in pay, (2) a relative moving in, (3) or a marriage.
Marriage can affect your SSI benefits in a couple different ways. First, your spouse’s income will be considered as income to you personally when Social Security determines your eligibility for benefits. Second, your payments will decrease if you marry another SSI recipient because the maximum couple’s benefit is less than two individual benefits.
If you receive SSI payments, you likely qualify for Medicaid. In many states, SSI recipients automatically receive Medicaid and don’t have to apply.
SSDI vs SSI Eligibility
Eligibility for SSI is based on age, blindness, disability, and income level. Eligibility for SSDI is based on disability and work history.
SSDI vs SSI Benefit Amount
SSI and SSDI have different benefit amounts. The average monthly SSI payment (January 2022) is $624. The average monthly SSDI payment (as of January 2022) is $1,223.
The maximum monthly benefit for SSI in 2022 is $841 for a single person or $1,261 for a married couple. The maximum monthly benefit for SSDI in 2022 is $3,345.
SSDI vs SSI Healthcare
In most states, people receiving SSI benefits automatically qualify for Medicaid as soon as their benefits begin.
SSDI recipients qualify for Medicare after a 24-month waiting period from the time benefits began. If they have ALS or end-stage renal disease, in which case there’s no waiting period.