What is Supplemental Security Income Disability—also known as SSI—and how is it different from Social Security Disability Insurance, known as SSDI or SSD?

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See how Supplemental Security Income, aka SSI, differs from Social Security, how to get both SSDI and SSI, and how to apply for SSI disability.

The Difference Between SSI and SSDI
Supplemental Security Income, SSI for short, is a Federal needs-based assistance program for people who are either disabled or over age sixty-five. The Social Security Administration administers both Social Security and SSI Disability, but some of the requirements for SSI eligibility are different from those for Social Security.

SSDI requires a certain number of work credits and payment of Social Security taxes. In most cases the SSI program does not require work credits. Only non-citizens in a certain immigration status must have work credits to get SSI and that work-credit requirement is different from the one for Social Security Disability. The SSI program, unlike SSDI, requires family assets and income to fall below a certain limit. It also considers living arrangements, including whether or not you are living in an institution, in determining eligibility and payment amount.

Another way that SSI is different from Social Security is that disabled children under age eighteen can receive SSI disability payments if their income and the assets and income of parents with whom they live are below the prescribed limit.

Yet another difference is that if you are approved for Social Security Disability for more than twenty-four months, you will be eligible for Medicare. SSI does not provide access to Medicare; but if you are approved for SSI, in most states you will be eligible for Medicaid in the first month of SSI eligibility.

SSI Definitions of Disability for Adults and Children
The definition of disability for adults who apply for SSI is the same as for Social Security disability. Our article What Is Disability According to Social Security Disability Law? explains the definition. The requirements for a disabled child under age eighteen are somewhat different. Social Security will determine a child is disabled if he or she “has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments that causes marked and severe functional limitations and that can be expected to cause death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months.”

Using a Plan to Achieve Self–Support (PASS) to Become Eligible

If your income and assets are over the SSI limit and you want to use them to purchase education, training, or business materials in order to start working within your physical or mental limitation, you may be eligible for a PASS, which would result in any income you sue to fund your Plan for Self-Support would not be used in determining your SSI eligibility, making you financially eligible for SSI. You can learn more about PASS’s in our article I Want to Work. Can You Tell Me How to Get SSI While Working?

Determining Eligibility for SSI
Because there are many factors involved in assessing financial eligibility for SSI, the most reliable way to find out whether you or your child is financially eligible for SSI disability payments is to contact the Social Security Administration or a Social Security Disability lawyer to file an SSI application. For more information about SSI, see our articles What Requirements Do I Have to Meet for SSI Disability Eligibility? and When I Apply for SSI Disability, Why Does Social Security Require Me to Apply for Other Benefits?

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