The Social Security Administration (SSA) receives funding through payroll withholding contributions from employed Americans and distributes benefits to retired adults and those with disabling medical conditions. There are actually two distinct disability benefit programs operated by the SSA, and these programs confuse many taxpayers.
Some people receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Other individuals receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Although the acronyms for these two programs look quite similar, there are actually significant differences that separate these two benefit programs.
How people qualify is the main difference
Disability benefits provide financial support for those with disabling medical conditions. However, different groups of people typically qualify for SSDI benefits as opposed to SSI benefits. SSDI benefits have a direct relationship to someone’s employment history. Workers accumulate credits through working and can then file a claim for benefits if they develop medical issues that force them to stop supporting themselves. People typically need to prove that they are unable to engage in any gainful employment and will have lasting medical limitations to qualify for SSDI benefits.
SSI, on the other hand, is available to even those who have never worked. To qualify for SSI benefits, individuals need evidence of a disabling medical condition and must also meet strict limitations on personal assets and income to qualify. Families with disabled children who have never worked are among those who may qualify for SSI benefits despite being ineligible for SSDI benefits.
The amount paid is different as well, with SSDI beneficiaries often receiving double what those on SSI do each month. What both SSDI and SSI have in common is that people find the application process intimidating and that small mistakes or insufficient medical documentation can make the process of securing benefits much more difficult.
Making sense of the different benefits programs administered by the SSA may help people to prepare for the application process and determine whether they or a member of their immediate family might qualify for SSDI or SSI. Seeking legal guidance is a good place to start.