The Difference Between SSI and Social Security Disability

The Difference Between SSI and Social Security Disability

Many people use the terms SSI and Disability interchangeably when referring to payments made by the Social Security Administration to disabled workers. However, there are some major differences that people should understand when it comes to the two different programs. If you are disabled and applying for benefits there is a wealth of information available on the Social Security Administration website,, but this article will show some of the most fundamental differences about the programs.

What is Social Security Disability (SSD)?

Social Security Disability otherwise referred to as SSD is a program that offers a monthly payment to a beneficiary based on their work history. If a person becomes disabled before reaching retirement age and can no longer work they can apply for these benefits. The SSA uses a complex algorithm to determine what your monthly benefit will be based on your work history and earnings. When you get your paycheck and taxes have been cut, part of those taxes go to pay into Social Security. This is where retirement benefits and Medicare are also involved. When you are approved for SSD you will have a 24 month waiting period to be able to get Medicare benefits. There are no income or resource limits for this program because it is based on the amount that you have paid into Social Security while working. The amount of your monthly check will vary by person depending on the amount that you have paid in. If you have dependents, children under the age of 18, then they can also be eligible to draw a SSD check off of the disabled parent while they are minors.

What is SSI?

SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income. SSI benefits are a need-based benefit through the Social Security Administration to disabled people. Once a person has been declared disabled, if they have not worked before or have not paid enough into the SSA system to meet a minimum benefit amount they may be eligible to draw SSI. The program has a set amount as the benefit from SSA, in the current year that amount is $698 per month. Children are also eligible to draw SSI benefits if they are disabled. Because SSI is a need based program there are income and resource limits. The limit is currently at $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a married couple. Resources include cars (one car is exempt for transportation purposes), real property that is not being used as a primary residence for the disabled individual, cash, and money in savings, checking, stocks, bonds, or other investments. If a person is over this resource limit then they are not eligible to draw SSI benefits. There are also monthly income limits that vary by the size of the family, so if a husband is disabled and does not qualify for SSD but his wife is working at a high income job then he would not be eligible for SSI benefits based on her income. Children may be eligible, but only based on the income of parents in the household. A person can draw a reduced benefit for SSI as well, if there is income that prevents the person from drawing the $698 they may be eligible for a reduced amount up to a certain income level. Some states with a high cost of living provide a state stipend to go with the SSI benefit of $698, other states do not. SSI typically comes with state sponsored Medicaid coverage as well for the disabled person. Dependents of a disabled person are not eligible to draw a separate check off of the disabled person.

The process of determining what a person is or is not eligible for is complicated and can change from month to month based on household factors. It is important to be upfront with SSA when applying for disability benefits of either type about your situation. Keep in mind that things like marriage, divorce, a child turning 18 and the birth of a child can all affect eligibility criteria. The basic thing to remember about Social Security benefits are that if a millionaire wanted to sign up for SSD he could, but only people of limited means can qualify for SSI. There are eligibility and income worksheets available on the SSA website and for specific questions you can always call your local Social Security office.