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ssdi vs ssi

Navigating the complexities of government assistance programs can be daunting, especially when it comes to understanding the differences between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both programs offer financial assistance to individuals with disabilities, but they serve distinct purposes and have different eligibility criteria. In this article, we'll provide an overview of SSDI and SSI, highlighting their key differences to help you better understand which program might be applicable to your situation.

SSDI Overview:

SSDI is a program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provides benefits to individuals who have a disability and are unable to work. Unlike SSI, which is based on financial need, SSDI eligibility is determined by an individual's work history and earnings. To qualify for SSDI, applicants must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a certain number of years, typically within the last 10 years before becoming disabled. Additionally, applicants must have a medical condition that meets the SSA's definition of disability, which generally means the condition must be severe enough to prevent them from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA).

Benefits under SSDI are based on the individual's earnings record, with the average monthly benefit being around $1,200 as of 2022. These benefits are designed to replace a portion of lost income due to disability and may also include auxiliary benefits for eligible family members, such as spouses and children.

SSI Overview:

SSI is a needs-based program also administered by the SSA, but it provides financial assistance to disabled individuals with limited income and resources, regardless of their work history. Unlike SSDI, which is funded through Social Security taxes, SSI is funded by general revenues from the U.S. Treasury. To qualify for SSI, applicants must meet strict income and resource limits, which are set by the federal government and may vary by state.

In addition to meeting the disability criteria established by the SSA, SSI applicants must have limited income and resources, including cash, bank accounts, and investments. The income and resource limits for SSI eligibility are designed to ensure that individuals with disabilities who have few financial resources can still receive assistance for basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing.

Differences Between SSDI and SSI:

  1. Eligibility Criteria: SSDI eligibility is based on work history and earnings, while SSI eligibility is based on financial need and disability status.
  2. Funding Source: SSDI is funded through Social Security taxes, whereas SSI is funded by general revenues from the U.S. Treasury.
  3. Benefit Amounts: SSDI benefits are based on the individual's earnings record, while SSI benefits are set at a standard federal rate that may be supplemented by state funds.
  4. Income and Resource Limits: SSDI does not have income or resource limits, while SSI has strict limits on both income and resources.


Understanding the differences between SSDI and SSI is crucial for individuals with disabilities who may be seeking financial assistance. While both programs aim to provide support to those in need, their eligibility criteria, funding sources, and benefit structures vary significantly. If you're unsure which program you may qualify for, it's recommended to consult with a Social Security representative or a qualified legal advocate who can provide personalized guidance based on your specific circumstances.


See if you might be eligible for Disability



Disability Self-Help Videos: Understanding SSI vs SSDI




Do you possess legal representation?

Though you can pursue disability benefits and participate in an appeal hearing without legal assistance, the majority of applicants opt for representation, particularly after an initial denial (as per SSA records, 62% of initial applications were rejected last year).

Our survey of readers revealed that individuals who enlisted legal aid at any stage had a 60% approval rate, whereas those who navigated the process solo were approved only 34% of the time. Particularly if your case isn't straightforward, engaging a disability lawyer or advocate could be advantageous to consider.


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