Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are both benefits programs designed for the disabled. Both are managed by the Social Security Administration. However, eligibility requirements for these two programs are quite different. A significant difference between the two is that SSDI is only available to workers earning enough “work credits” with Social Security. While SSI disability benefits are available to low-income individuals regardless of whether they have earned sufficient work credits.
Differences Between SSI and SSDI
Social Security Disability Insurance
SSDI benefits are funded by each employee’s payroll taxes. So, to be eligible for SSDI, you must have earned sufficient “work credits,” which is based on your age and when you became disabled. In order to be eligible for SSDI, you must be between the ages of 18 and 65 and have worked some portion of five of the ten years prior to becoming disabled.
SSDI benefits are also subject to a five-month waiting period. In other words, you cannot receive disability benefits for the first five months you are disabled. When that waiting period ends, the amount of your monthly benefit payment will depend on your record of earnings, much like your Social Security retirement benefits. Under SSDI, your spouse and dependent children are also eligible to receive partial benefits. Average payments range from $700 to $1,400 a month. After you have received disability benefits for 24 months, you will automatically become eligible for Medicare, regardless of your age.
Supplemental Security Income
Unlike SSDI, SSI is strictly a need-based program. As such, your eligibility is not based on your work history. To be eligible, you must have less than $2,000 in assets if you are single and less than $3,000 if you are married. You must also have very limited income. When determining your income, the Social Security Administration considers several different sources. For example, the cash value of food stamps, grants, and income tax refunds are considered income for SSI purposes. A more comprehensive list of recognized income sources can be found on the SSA’s website.
Each state has its own requirements and guidelines regarding SSI eligibility. Also, the amount of your benefits may be different depending on the state in which you live. For federal Social Security purposes, there are four criteria that must be met to be eligible for SSI:
- You must be blind, disabled, or age 65 or over
- You must be either a citizen of the United States, or meet other very narrow requirements
- Your monthly income must be below a certain level, and
- The property you own must be worth less than $2,000 for an individual, or $3,000 for a couple.
As of 2013, assuming your application for SSI benefits is approved, your minimum SSI benefits will be $710 per month for an individual or $1,066 per month for a couple. According to the Social Security Administration, SSI benefits will increase by 1.5 percent next year. With this increase, the maximum federal SSI benefit for an individual will be $721 and for a couple it will increase to $1,082.