Is there a Difference Between Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income?

Social Security Administration

Description – understand how the eligibility requirements between Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income compare and contrast.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) manages a few different benefit programs including retirement and disability. The disability benefit program is then split into two different categories, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The SSDI is a program that provides supplemental financial payments to people who are disabled, to qualify you must have recently worked a specific amount of hours. The SSI is a program meant to provide financial assistance to people who have limited resources and income, including people who have not worked in the past due to their disability. These programs, even though both may assist people who are disabled, have important differences in eligibility that you should keep in mind while applying for disability benefits. Two of these differences include (1) work history and (2) current income and assets.


  1. SSDI requires a certain amount of work in the past whereas SSI does not

When you apply for SSDI, the SSA determines if you have enough work credits, generally determined by how much you made and how long you have worked for. Here is a guide as to how credits are generally calculated. Although, this is not the only requirement, if you do not have enough work credits, you will not be eligible for SSDI. If you do have enough credits and meet other requirements, then your monthly benefit will be determined by how much you have earned and how long you have worked. The SSI program, however, does not require you to have worked within a certain time frame to qualify.


  1. SSI benefit amount is based on current income and assets whereas SSDI benefit amount is not

SSI benefits start at a specific amount per month, as determined by the SSA, and then certain kinds of income are then deducted from those benefits resulting in your monthly benefit amount. Your benefit amount will be detailed in an award letter letting you know the calculations for determining your monthly benefit amount. Here is a link detailing the kinds of income that is considered. Reviewing what may or may not be counted as your income and assets before applying will give you a better idea of what your benefit amount could be if you meet all the other requirements. For example, SSA may consider income you are earning while working, income your spouse or parents are earning, unemployment benefits, and food or shelter that you get for free. SSDI, on the other hand, does not count your income to calculate benefits and you may have certain kinds of income.

The details above cover very general guidelines for SSDI and SSI eligibility, the above differences are not the only requirements for each program. To review SSDI eligibility requirements, go here. To review SSI eligibility requirements, go here. Whether a person meets the requirements of each program depends on each particular case. It is important to contact an experienced Social Security Disability attorney to discuss your situation and how you may meet the requirements to receive SSDI benefits, SSI benefits, or both.