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articles: archive

July 12, 2015

Social Security Disability

What is the Difference Between Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) Benefits?

by Jim Abernathy

Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits ("SSDI") and Supplemental Security Income Benefits ("SSI") are two of the more common disability programs administered by The Social Security Administration.  The differences between the two programs have very little to do with how hurt or sick a person must be in order to be eligible.  For the most part, if someone is "disabled" under one program, then that person is also  "disabled" under the other.  The differences between SSI and SSDI mostly have to do with money.

To be eligible for SSDI benefits, a person must have worked and earned "Quarters of Coverage" through  FICA withholdings from that person's paychecks or from payment of the SECA self-employment tax.  That work activity must have been recent enough so that the person became disabled while still covered for disability benefits under the program.  Generally, after about 5 years of unemployment, a person's eligibility for SSDI will lapse.  So long as the person earned enough Quarters of Coverage to be insured under the program, it does not matter what other income or assets the person may have.  With one exception, if the person becomes disabled while covered under the program, then they are entitled to SSDI benefits regardless of whether they have other money or not. 

SSI benefits are nearly directly opposite from SSDI benefits, in terms of the financial requirements.  To be eligible for SSI, it is not necessary that the person ever have worked or earned any "Quarters of Coverage."  Rather, to be qualified for SSI,  the person may not have income or resources that exceed SSA's very strict limits.  The details on these limits may be obtained by contacting the Social Security Administration and requesting a publication entitled "Understanding Supplemental Security Income (SSI)".