The Difference Between SSI and SSDI: [ID: background of alternating yellow and purple, text reading "SSI" and "SSDI" and "comparing the 2 types of Social Security disability income". There is a graphic of a dollar sign nestled in a yellow circle in the center of the image]

The Difference Between SSI and SSDI

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This is about the difference between SSI and SSDI.

Disclaimer: we are not benefits planners here at Unpacking Disability. This is simply information gleaned from personal experience and research. You need and want to do your own research with the Red Book (- link in post), and consult with your own disability benefits planner if possible.

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What Are SSI and SSDI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are two different government programs that provide cash assistance to people with disabilities. Each program is funded differently, and each one is intended to help a different group of people. However, both programs use the same five-step criteria to determine if you qualify as disabled.

You even use the same form to apply for both! Understandably, the two programs are often, and easily, confused with one another, but there are some key differences between SSI and SSDI that we explore in detail by answering the questions below.  Here we go!

 Who Can Get SSI?

Elderly, blind, and disabled people who have low incomes and/or few assets can get SSI. Children with disabilities can also qualify (see below.)

Can a Child Get SSI? 

Yes, a child can get SSI if the child:

  1. lives with parents
  2. is under 18 years old, and
  3. is unmarried

Who Can Get SSDI?

People who have worked and paid Social Security tax can get SSDI. Not every person who has worked is automatically eligible for SSDI. Your eligibility depends on how old you are, how much or how long you have worked, and how recently you have worked. 

For example, my husband, John Turner, became eligible for SSDI when he sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 2002, at the age 32, after working for over 10 years. You can read more about his experience in a forthcoming post (stay tuned!)

 Can a Child Get SSDI?

While children are not directly eligible for SSDI, they may be eligible for benefits through their parents if their parents can claim them as dependents. Any child who becomes disabled before age 22 may be eligible for SSDI benefits through their parents’ work record. Disabled children may also be eligible to receive a deceased parent’s SSDI benefits.

How Much Money Can Be Received From SSI?

In 2020, the federal SSI payment standard was $783 per month for an individual.

How Much Money Can Be Received From SSDI?

In 2020, the average SSDI payment was $1,258. Since SSDI is based on the beneficiary’s earning record, some SSDI recipients received much more than $1,228, and some, much less.

What Are the Income Limits for SSI? 

The income limits for SSI are complex.

They depend not only on the amount of your income, but also on the types of income the Social Security Administration (SSA) does or does not count against your potential benefit amount. In general, the more countable income you have, the less your SSI benefit amount will be. For types of countable and uncountable income, and examples of how the SSA considers each in your application for benefits, see:

What Are the Income Limits for SSDI? 

The SSDI income limit is called the threshold for Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA.)

The SSA defines SGA as work that brings in over a certain dollar amount per month. In 2020, that amount is $1,260 for non-blind disabled SSDI or SSI applicants, and $2,110 for blind SSDI applicants. (The SGA threshold does not apply to blind SSI applicants.) 

Your income must be below this limit, after you’ve deducted any disability-related expenses, even If your disability permits you to do some kind of paid work.

Can I Make Money and Still Receive SSI or SSDI? 

Yes, you can, but the income and resource limits are very  different for SSI and for SSDI.

SSI has very strict income and resource limits, as it is a needs-based program. SSDI is an insurance program, so it’s dependent on whether or not you have received permanent SSDI or if your case is still being reviewed every few years (- see below). 

Either way, you want to be VERY, VERY careful. You need to find out exactly how much you can have in the bank, how much you can have in the way of resources, and if you are able to earn any income, how much you are able to earn without penalty. 

 How Much Money Can I Make and Still Receive SSI? 

The answer to this one is complicated and depends heavily on each person’s individual situation. There are different types and amounts of income the SSA takes into consideration when qualifying you for benefits. These include income earned from work; unearned income like disability or unemployment benefits, interest, dividends, or cash gifts; in-kind income like food or shelter you get for free; and deemed income from a spouse or parent with whom you live. 

 How Much Money Can I Make and Still Receive SSDI? 

This depends on if you have permanent SSDI or temporary (- meaning, your case will be reviewed every so often). If you have permanent SSDI, you have no income or resource limits. If your case will be up for review (which is usually the case if you are under retirement age, or SSA believes you might heal from your disability). If you have temporary, you need to check in with a Disability Benefits Planner or with SSA to see what your income or resource limit is.

Can I Get Both SSI and SSDI?

Yes, you can qualify for both programs at once.

If your income and assets are low enough and you have the necessary work history, you could qualify for benefits from both programs. When you apply for both SSI and SSDI at the same time the SSA calls it making a concurrent claim.

When you receive both benefits, the SSA counts any money you receive from SSDI toward the income limit for SSI. So, if you receive too much from SSDI, you may end up disqualified from SSI benefits.

What Kind of Healthcare Coverage Can I Get With SSI vs SSDI?

SSDI includes Medicare Parts A-D, while SSI includes Medicaid. Medicaid is a jointly funded, federal and state health insurance program for low-income people. Medicaid covers certain children, as well as some or all elderly, blind, and disabled people who are eligible to receive federal income assistance. Depending on what state you live in, your eligibility for and access to certain types of services under Medicaid may differ. 

A Simplified Summary of the Differences

Here’s an infographic that lists the main differences between SSI and SSDI. It’s based off the fact sheet that SSA provides on their site (linked here). You can download this pdf for free by just clicking the link here or on the button below.

The following video on the difference between SSI and SSDI was made by Citizens Disability. I don’t know anything about them and can’t vouch for them, but their video on YouTube was the clearest and easiest to understand, which is why I’m posting it here!

It’s a good, succinct and factual piece on the key differences:

This Stuff is Complicated!

This is complicated but it’s not rocket science. I mean, you can wrap your head around it when you look hard and close at the rules.

It’s really, REALLY important to remember that not all the people at SSA know the rules themselves, and human error there is real. I can’t stress enough how important it is to do your own homework in understanding the differences between the two benefits, understanding payment amounts, income and income resource limits and penalties.

Go to the source at the SSA Redbook to really understand it.

Good luck!

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  1. are they anyway i can get to help me with a self trust will.??? And am a single disabled Mom and my son is special needs since birth and we get SSI but its not enough for us to get our on home. and his Dad has been carrying him on hes taxes dont know how long. But he got my sons 1&2 stiumes check and he owed money and has not seen his child since 2012 but he was abused and neglected there and hes so scared of that family. and i tried to get his Dads to sign his rights away but i lose 10,000 and it hasnt been good. I just need someone to help me because my depression and anixey and chrons and ulcercolist and my son does to and migrains fibormyagica and small fiber neruopathy and heart attacks congested heart faliure and my son has the chrons and ulcer colist and migrains and fibormyagica and was in the hospital 17 times from April to October from his chrons issues broke out with psoroiaes and cant take sulfa or penicilline and we at atrium health northeast hospital in concord nc and even had to go to Winston Salem fir his treatment and i dont have a depenable car and we pay rent to my mom and i dont get any food stamps only sssi and medicadide and i fix mine and my son food separt and she told me she hated me and didnt want me and i need someone to help me ASAP. Thank you Shelly Szekely 704-298-8688.thats for any help.

    1. Shelly, I think looking for a benefits planner would be helpful! google for your local center for independent living and ask them about their benefits planners and schedule an appointment to meet with them!

  2. The pink and blue graphic on the page above that explains the difference between SSI and SSDI is incorrect- the sides/labels are swapped so that the info given for SSI should be for SSDI and vice versa.

  3. Whoops my mistake. It looks fine now, but when it came up in the preview window on Google images, the sides were reversed? I saved a copy of it and they really are reversed!

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