The Difference Between Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income

If you become disabled and unable to work, you may be entitled to disability payments through the Social Security Administration (SSA). There are two types of disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While the disability requirements are the same for both programs, the financial eligibility rules are quite different. You need to understand these differences so you apply for the benefits you qualify for and need soon.

What Are the Financial Requirements for SSDI?

Differences between SSDI and SSISocial Security Disability Insurance is an entitlement program available to workers who accumulated a sufficient number of work credits.

Workers, employers, and individuals who are self-employed pay for these benefits through their Social Security taxes.

The basic rule of thumb in order to qualify for SSDI benefits is to have paid into the system for five of the last 10 years.  In this event, you're "insured" by Social Security and therefore able to make a claim for SSDI.  In order to determine whether you're insured for SSDI purposes, contact the Social Security Administration and specifically ask if you're insured for SSDI benefits.

Every individual has the opportunity to review a document called "Your Social Security Statement." It's mailed annually to people over age 60, or available online to anyone who sets up a Social Security account. Usually, page two of the statement indicates whether a person has enough credits to qualify for SSDI. Here's an example of what this line item might say:

*Disability: You have earned enough credits to qualify for benefits. If you became disabled right now, your payment would be about $1,664 a month.

In cases where someone may not have worked in the last few years, it would also be beneficial to find out the last date he or she was insured for SSDI purposes. The date last insured (DLI) is the date that you must establish disability by in order to qualify for SSDI benefits. If you became disabled before your DLI, you could still be eligible for benefits.

When Can I Qualify for Supplemental Security Income?

SSI is a program that's completely needs-based, and eligibility for payments isn't reliant on an individual's work history. A person who's disabled but doesn't have enough credits to qualify for SSDI, or lacks medical evidence to establish disability prior to a DLI, may be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income. However, unlike SSDI, SSI has an asset component that may prevent an applicant from receiving SSI payments. The maximum assets are:

  • $2,000 in assets for an individual
  • $3,000 in assets for a couple

In addition, a person applying for SSI can only have very limited income. In 2018, this monthly amount was $750 for an individual and $1,125 for a couple.

In short, you can be a millionaire and still qualify for SSDI benefits if you become disabled.  However, if you have more than $2,000 in assets and you're only eligible to apply for SSI, even if disabled, you may not qualify for benefits. It's important to remember that in order to receive either benefit, you must still prove you're disabled.  There's no difference in the burden of proof necessary to establish disability for SSDI or SSI.

If you have further questions regarding your right to Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits, please feel free to contact the experienced social security disability attorneys at Johnson & Gilbert, P.A. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation.