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What Are the Key Differences in Qualifying for SSDI vs. SSI

Navigating the complex world of Social Security benefits can be overwhelming for anyone. A common concern for many disabled individuals is understanding the differences between two commonly sought-after programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

In this blog, we’ll explore some key differences between qualifying for SSDI vs. SSI benefits by reviewing defining characteristics, eligibility requirements, and more to help determine which program may be best suited for your unique needs.

Understanding SSDI vs. SSI Benefits

Navigating the world of Social Security benefits can be challenging, especially with a disability. While both SSDI and SSI programs aim to provide financial assistance to individuals with disabilities, they also entail distinct differences in eligibility criteria, benefits, income thresholds, health insurance coverage, and more.

Below is a brief overview of SSDI and SSI benefits to help determine which program may be most appropriate for your specific circumstances:

  • SSDI Benefits: SSDI benefits are designed to provide financial assistance to individuals who have a qualifying disability and have worked enough to contribute to the Social Security system through payroll taxes. It functions as an insurance program, providing benefits based on one's work history and the amount paid into Social Security.
  • SSI Benefits: SSI benefits are aimed at supporting disabled individuals with limited income and resources. Unlike SSDI, SSI is not based on work credits but instead focuses on financial need. It provides a safety net for individuals who haven't worked or paid enough into the Social Security system.

7 Differences Between SSDI vs. SSI Benefits

There are important distinctions between these two primary SSA programs. Below are seven key differences between these two types of benefits:

1. Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for the SSDI program, you must have a substantial work history and have earned enough “work credits” through your employment. Additionally, you must have a medically determinable disability that prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA).

On the other hand, benefits eligibility for the SSI program is based on financial need rather than work history. You must have limited income and resources, and you must meet the SSA's definition of disability.

2. Benefits

SSDI benefit amounts are determined by your earnings history and the number of work credits you’ve earned. Generally, SSDI benefits tend to be higher than SSI benefits.

On the contrary, the SSI program provides a fixed monthly benefit amount set by the federal government. The amount can vary slightly by state due to some states providing supplemental payments.

3. Average Monthly Income

Since SSDI is based on your work history, beneficiaries tend to have a more substantial monthly income compared to SSI recipients. On the other hand, SSI provides a lower monthly income designed to cover basic living expenses for individuals with limited resources.

4. Health Insurance Coverage

After receiving SSDI benefits for two years, you become eligible for Medicare, which helps cover medical expenses. However, SSI recipients are eligible for Medicaid from the moment they are approved, helping to cover healthcare costs.

5. Resource Limits

There are no specific resource limits for SSDI, but your work history and disability status are the primary factors considered. On the other hand, to qualify for SSI, you must have limited resources, such as cash, bank accounts, and real estate. The resource limit is quite low to ensure financial need.

6. Work History

SSDI is available to individuals who have a significant work history and have paid Social Security taxes through their earnings. However, SSI does not require a work history. Generally, eligibility is solely based on financial need and disability status.

7. Family Benefits

With SSDI benefits, certain family members (such as spouses and dependent children) may be eligible to receive auxiliary benefits based on the primary beneficiary's work history. On the other hand, SSI benefits are generally individual, and family members' eligibility is not based on the recipient's disability.

Tireless Advocacy for the Disabled in Norristown

At Rubin & Badame, Attorneys at Law, P.C., our highly skilled Social Security disability attorneys have extensive experience representing the disabled in Norristown and beyond. We understand firsthand how frustrating and confusing it can be to successfully obtain SSDI and SSI benefits, especially through manipulative or nonresponsive insurers.

That’s where our firm comes in. With over 35 years of legal experience, you can count on our compassionate advocates to fight for the fair and just outcome you deserve. Our dedicated attorneys are well-equipped and qualified to represent clients throughout Pennsylvania and the surrounding region, including New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland.

Were your disability benefits denied or wrongfully terminated? Our skilled attorneys can fight for justice. Call (610) 595-4917 to schedule a consultation.