SSDI and SSI Disability Programs – What’s the Difference?

For over 10 years I have been representing claimants in front of the Social Security Administration.  I am often asked about the difference between Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security benefits (SSI).

The major difference is that to receive SSDI you must have paid into the system for an appropriate number of “quarters.”   At a younger age, the necessary number of quarters varies, and if you became disabled before age 22 there is a different set of rules, but for most people, you need to have been working 5 of the 10 years prior to becoming disabled.  Part time work may be enough to earn work credits, but the more you earned (and paid into the system) the higher your benefit rate.  When you draw SSDI benefits, you are being paid from what is referred to as the disability trust fund.  This money comes from payments into the Social Security system.

If you do not have enough work credits to draw SSDI it is still possible to get benefits through the SSI program.  SSI benefits are financed through the tax dollars paid in to the Federal Government.  SSI currently pays a maximum of $733.00 per month, but often your benefit amount will be lower as the Social Security Administration will make adjustments for other income or benefits you might receive.  SSI is often compared to welfare as a result of the limitations on income and assets.  The SSI program that can supplement your SSDI if you are drawing less than $733.00 a month and otherwise meet the requirements of the same.

Before you can draw either SSDI or SSI, you have to establish that you are disabled within the meaning of the law.   Both programs require that you establish through sufficient medical evidence that you are disabled. Your ability to work, age, education, and recent jobs are the key factors affecting disability determination.   The application process and the various levels of appeal are complicated.  If you need help with your claim we strongly encourage you to call our office.