What’s the Difference Between SSI and SSDI?


The two leading Federal programs that provide financial assistance to those people with disabilities are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). When determining SSI vs SSDI, it’s important that applicants know the difference between the two. Though each program is administered by the Social Security Administration and eligibility for both are restricted to those individuals who meet medical criteria to qualify for benefits, they are different programs.


Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance are often confused with each other because both programs offer cash benefits for individuals who are disabled. The test for disability of adult applicants is the same. The main difference between SSI and SSDI is the financial eligibility requirements for qualification.

SSI (Supplemental Security Income)

SSI provides disability benefits for low-income individuals who have either never worked or have not worked long enough to have the necessary work credits to qualify for SSDI.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program administered by the Social Security Administration. The SSI program pays monthly benefits to low-income aged, blind and/or disabled individuals. The Social Security Administration administers the program, but it is financed by general tax revenues and not from Social Security taxes.

SSI Financial Requirements

SSI eligibility is limited to people who have low incomes and limited financial assets. The monthly maximum Federal amounts for 2019 are $771 (an increase of 2.8 percent from 2018) for an eligible individual with no other countable income or $1,157 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse.

How Much Does SSI Pay?

Monthly payments to individuals can vary, with the average monthly SSI payment being $567. This reflects SSI payments being reduced as other sources of income rise, and that some states supplement the federal payment. n 2019, 8.1 million low-income adults receive monthly SSI payments (down from 8.3 in 2016). These beneficiaries include 4.7 million adults under age 65 who are eligible based on disability or blindness and 2.3 million adults aged 65 and older who are eligible based on age. In addition, 1.1 million children under age 18 receive SSI based on disability or blindness.

SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance)

SSDI is available to those people who have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is part of the Social Security program. Unlike SSI, SSDI is paid out of the same Social Security funds that pay retiree benefits to the greater part of older Americans. SSDI pays monthly benefits to individuals who have a significant illness, are injured, or have received an impairment that prevents them from working for a period expected to last at least a year or longer or result in death within a year.

If disabled, monthly benefits an individual will receive are based on that worker’s past earnings. The more that individual has paid into Social Security, the more that individual and his or her dependent family members will receive.

SSDI Financial Requirements

Eligibility is very strict. In addition to being disabled, the individual must have worked in jobs covered by Social Security, in other words, a job or jobs that the worker had a portion of his or her wages deducted into Social Security for a significant number of years.

Social Security administers a test to determine a disability that encompasses two areas. First, by law, applicants for disability must be “… unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.” Secondly, the injury, impairment, or illness, or any combination of the three, must be severe enough that the applicant cannot engage in his or her previous field of work and because of his or her age, education, and work experience, cannot engage in any other kind of ordinary, full-time work.

How Much Does SSDI Pay?

For 2019, the maximum SSDI benefit is $2,861. That’s a slight increase from the 2018 maximum benefit of $2,788. However, the estimated average monthly benefit for disabled workers receiving SSDI is $1,234. In 2018, the average monthly payment for SSDI was $1,197. Presently, over 8.5 million workers receive SSDI.

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