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What are the main differences between SSI and SSDI?

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Among the programs available to people who need a hand, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are among the most well-known. Both are similar in that they are benefits programs meant to help seniors or people with disabilities. In addition, they are both administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

That’s about where the similarities end. To help clear up any confusion, here’s a brief overview of the differences between SSI and SSDI.

Who the programs are for

SSI and SSDI target slightly different groups of people (with some overlap). SSI is generally for people who are older, blind or disabled, and who also have little income. The goal of the program is to help them pay for basic needs such as food, clothing and housing.

SSDI is for people who have a substantial work history, but are now facing a long-term disability that impacts their ability to hold a job and support themselves.


SSI eligibility is partially means-based, meaning your income has to be relatively small. This is partially based on the Federal Benefit Rate. For 2019, that’s $791 a month for an individual and $1,157 for qualified couples. In addition, you also have to have a qualifying disability.

SSDI eligibility is two-pronged. First you must have worked for long enough to have paid into Social Security, therefore earning enough work credits to be eligible for the disability program. You generally need to have 40 work credits to qualify, with at least half of those coming in the past 10 years. Second, you must meet the SSA’s definition of being disabled, which is based on your ability to work, the severity of your health condition and likelihood of future employment.

There are some situations in which a person may qualify for both SSI and SSDI.

Benefit amount

Monthly SSI payments are based on the Federal Benefit Rate, minus any countable income. So if you have no countable income, you may receive the full total. If your countable income is $400 a month, you may only receive a $391 SSI payment.

SSDI is more complex. The SSA takes into account your average lifetime earnings that were covered by Social Security. It might be reduced if you’re getting any workers’ compensation or other public disability benefits. In 2018, the average monthly benefit received under SSDI was $1,233.70, according to an SSA report.

Health care provided

Both SSI and SSDI include health insurance coverage, though not the same. Under SSI, the recipient can get Medicaid coverage. SSDI recipients, meanwhile, receive Medicare, including Part A, Part B, Part C and Part D.

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