Social Security Benefits: The Differences Between SSDI and SSI
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two federal safety net programs that provide benefits for people with serious health impairments that prevent them from working: SS Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is based on a person's prior employment, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is for people who don't have a significant work history. Both of these programs require that your medical impairment must be expected to last at least one year, or be serious enough to result in death. You must have been disabled at least five months before you can begin collecting benefit payments from either program.
If you've been gainfully employed and paid into the Social Security system, you should apply for SSDI if you become disabled. Social Security uses a formula which takes into account your age and the number of years worked to determine if meet the work requirement.
If you meet the initial work requirement for SSDI, you must file an application with Social Security Administration. You can do so online or in person at your local SSA office. If you qualify for SSDI benefits, your monthly payment will be based on your Social Security earnings record.
You must include your work history, payments to SSA and a significant amount of medical information documenting your diagnosis and establishing that your disability prevents you from maintaining gainful employment. These include doctor's visits, hospitalizations, medical tests, medications and therapies.
If you don't meet the qualifications for SSDI and you have a serious health impairment that prevents you from maintaining gainful employment, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income. SSI is based on financial need. In order to meet the requirement, you must have extremely limited income or assets. Income includes your wages and salary, as well as benefits, pensions, and interest income. If you're married, a portion of your spouse's income will also be counted. Financial resources other than income are counted when assessing if you qualify for SSI. These include any bank accounts, real estate, stocks or bonds that you or your spouse may own. Generally, with the exception of your car and the home you live in, you're allowed $2,000 in assets for an individual and $3,000 for a couple in order to qualify for SSI benefits.
If you qualify for SSI, your monthly benefit payment varies up to the maximum federal benefit rate, which may be supplemented by the state you live in.
The medical requirement for SSI is the same as for SSDI, only the work and financial requirements are different.