Differences Between SSI & SSDI Disability

by Gerald Hanks ; Updated July 27, 2017
Senior man with can in wheelchair

The Social Security Administration operates two programs that provide benefits for Americans with disabilities. Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, allows workers to receive their Social Security retirement benefits prior to retirement age if they become disabled. Participants in the Supplemental Security Income program, or SSI, receive benefits based on their financial need. Each program has different objectives, eligibility requirements and benefits schedules, so participants should learn if they qualify for one or the other or both.

Eligibility Requirements

Both programs require that applicants be assessed for the extent of their disabilities. Eligibility for SSI is based on an individual's financial status. Applicants must meet general income requirements to qualify for SSI. As of 2015, these requirements include a combined bank balance of less than $2,000 for individuals or $3,000 for married couples. Eligibility for SSDI is based on the individual's contributions into the Social Security system during his working years. Individuals who have not contributed to the Social Security fund are not eligible to receive SSDI, but they are eligible for SSI.

Benefit Amounts

The calculation of the monthly SSI payment starts with the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR). As of 2015, the FBR is $733 for individuals and $1,100 for a married couple. The SSA then subtracts the recipient's "countable income" and adds any supplemental income provided by similar state-run programs to calculate the final amount. Countable income includes earned income such as wages, self employment earnings and workshop payments; unearned income such as Social Security payments, state disability payments and unemployment benefits; in-kind income, including food and shelter received for free or at a reduced price; and deemed income, or income from parents, spouses or sponsors. The calculation for SSDI monthly payments is based on the worker’s earnings covered by Social Security. The amount may be reduced if the worker receives Workers’ Compensation payments and/or disability benefits payments from civil or state agencies.

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Health Insurance

Recipients for both SSI and SSDI are eligible to receive government-sponsored health insurance. SSI participants are automatically eligible for Medicaid, a health insurance program operated jointly by federal and state governments. Medicaid provides health coverage for disabled individuals and low-income families. SSDI recipients qualify for Medicare after receiving disability payments for two years. Medicare coverage includes hospital stays (Part A), physician office visits (Part B), Medicare Advantage (Part C) and prescription drug coverage (Part D).

Financing Sources

SSI receives its funding through general fund taxes. Since the program does not depend on contributions to the Social Security program, it does not take its funding directly from the same source as other Social Security benefits packages. SSDI receives its funding from payroll taxes, such as Social Security and FICA. SSDI functions as an extension of the standard Social Security retirement program for disabled workers, so participants receive their benefits from the same pool as retired workers on Social Security.

About the Author

Living in Houston, Gerald Hanks has been a writer since 2008. He has contributed to several special-interest national publications. Before starting his writing career, Gerald was a web programmer and database developer for 12 years.

Photo Credits

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