The Differences Between SSI and SSDI

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Social Security offers two types of benefits for individuals with disabilities: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). While both programs are designed to provide financial support for people with disabilities, they differ in their eligibility criteria, funding sources, and benefits. In this article, we will explore the differences between SSI and SSDI, helping you understand which program is right for you.

Eligibility Criteria

SSI eligibility is based on financial need. Individuals who have limited income and resources and who are aged, blind, or disabled may qualify for SSI benefits. To be eligible for SSI, you must be a U.S. citizen or meet specific residency requirements. The amount of SSI benefits you receive is determined by your income and resources.

In contrast, SSDI eligibility is based on work history. To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have worked and paid into the Social Security system for a minimum number of years. The number of work credits required depends on your age at the time you became disabled. In addition to meeting the work history requirements, you must also meet the Social Security Administration's definition of disability and be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity due to your impairment.

Funding Sources

Another major difference between SSI and SSDI is their funding sources. SSI is funded by general tax revenues, whereas SSDI is funded by Social Security payroll taxes paid by workers, employers, and self-employed individuals. This means that SSDI is an earned benefit, while SSI is a means-tested benefit.

Benefit Amounts

The amount of benefits you can receive under SSI and SSDI also varies. SSI benefits are designed to provide a basic level of financial support to disabled individuals with limited income and resources. The maximum federal benefit rate for SSI in 2021 is $794 per month for individuals. However, the final benefit amount depends on various factors such as state supplements and other income sources.

SSDI benefits, on the other hand, are based on your average lifetime earnings covered by Social Security. The amount of your SSDI benefit will depend on the amount of your earnings record, your work history, and other factors. The average monthly SSDI benefit in 2021 is $1,277.

Other Differences

There are several other differences between SSI and SSDI, including:

  • Medical Eligibility: To be eligible for SSI, you must meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability, which typically requires that your medical condition significantly limits your ability to work and that your condition has lasted or is expected to last for at least a year. To be eligible for SSDI, you must meet the same medical criteria but also have a sufficient work history.
  • Family Benefits: SSI does not provide benefits for family members, while SSDI can provide benefits to certain eligible family members.
  • Impairment-Related Work Expenses: SSI allows for impairment-related work expenses, such as costs related to transportation or medical services that enable the recipient to work. SSDI does not offer this type of benefit.


SSI and SSDI are both programs that provide financial support to individuals with disabilities. While they share some similarities, such as the medical criteria for eligibility, the differences between the two are significant. SSI is a need-based program funded by general tax revenues, while SSDI is an earned benefit funded by Social Security payroll taxes. The eligibility criteria and benefits also differ between the two programs. Understanding the differences between SSI and SSDI can help you determine which program is right for your needs. If you have questions about the eligibility requirements or benefits of these programs, you can contact the Social Security Administration or consult with a disability advocate.


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