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SSDI vs. SSI: What's the difference?

Sep 26, 2012, 9:30 a.m.
In brief, SSDI is insurance, while SSI is welfare.

When adults turn to the government for assistance, many look at two similar, but different programs offered by the Social Security Administration, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In brief, SSDI is insurance, while SSI is welfare.

Medical coverage is also included in both programs. Under SSDI, recipients can obtain Medicare coverage after 2 years on the program. SSI recipients are automatically eligible to receive Medicaid. Applicants must disclose to the government agency information about their past income, medical history, living conditions, and assets.

SSDI Program

SSDI is the Social Security Disability Insurance program designed to assist those who have already worked and earned a specified number of qualifying credits. Payments for SSDI recipients are based on previous earnings. Persons who are disabled and no longer able to work must have previously worked at jobs where they paid into the system through FDIC taxes to be eligible for these insurance benefits.

Under SSDI, qualifying credits accrue for work done prior to age 62 and before death or becoming disabled. Survivors may receive some benefits as well. SSDI requires between 6 and 40 qualifying credits for insurance coverage, with at least 20 earned within the previous 10 years.

SSI Program

SSI is the Supplemental Security Income program that was created to assist persons who meet certain income restrictions and who have limited resources, but who are not disabled workers. Participants must be US citizens or nationals, and certain aliens may qualify for SSI.

SSI eligibility requirements include: limited income, limited resources, be a US citizen or national, certain aliens may qualify, and they must be a US resident or live in the Northern Mariana Islands. SSI payments are need-based and vary, up to maximum federal benefit rates. In addition, some states offer additional funds to supplement SSI payments. Current monthly maximum SSI rates are set at $698 for individuals and $1048 for a couple.

For SSI purposes, income is counted from many sources, earned and unearned, in-kind or deemed. Income is counted from wages, payments, royalties, social security benefits, pensions, unemployment benefits, state disability benefits, interest, free food/shelter or that provided at less than fair market value and cash from relatives or friends. In some cases, deemed income is included that was earned by a spouse, parent or sponsor of someone the recipient lives with.

If you feel you might qualify for either helpful program, a complete explanation, including all SSDI and SSI eligibility requirements, can be found at the SSA website, here.

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