Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are two Social Security Administration (SSA) programsthat provide assistance to people with disabilities. Only individuals who meet certain medical criteria are eligible to receive benefits from the SSI or SSDI program.

Social Security Disability Insurance

The primary difference between these two programs is that in order to be eligible for SSDI, a worker must earn sufficient credits. To earn credits, a worker must pay into the Social Security system. Credits are based on the amount of your earnings. Social Security uses your work history to determine your eligibility for disability benefits.

In 2011, you receive one credit for each $1,120 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits per year. How many credits you need for disability benefits depends on how old you are when you become disabled.

  • If you become disabled before age 24, you generally need 1½ years of work (six credits) in the three years before you became disabled.
  • If you are 24 through 30, you generally need credits for half of the time between age 21 and the time you became disabled.
  • If you are disabled at age 31 or older, you generally need at least 20 credits in the 10 years immediately before you became disabled.

Supplemental Security Income

SSI is financed through general revenues from taxes and is not based on work history. The SSI program provides benefits to adults who are disabled or blind, children who are disabled or blind, and elderly people over the age of 65.

In order to be eligible for SSI benefits, an individual must have limited resources and income. The standards for eligibility of SSI change yearly, however resources are defined as money you have (cash, savings, bank accounts) or property you own (such as a car).

Some types of resources are counted for SSI eligibility, and some are not. If you have too many countable resources, you will not be eligible for SSI. Income is money and non-cash items and services that you get in a month that can help meet your need for food and shelter. Income can be earned or unearned.

Which One is Better?

If you currently have limited income and resources and have worked and paid Social Security taxes and have earned a sufficient amount of credits, you may be eligible to receive benefits from both SS and SSDI.

If you have enough work credits, apply for the SSDI program. If you don’t have enough work credits and have limited income and resources, apply for the SSI program.

A common misconception is that individuals can get twice as much if they apply for both SSDI and SSI—this is incorrect. The only way you can receive both SSI and SSDI benefits is if your SSDI benefits are less than the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) for SSI payments. As of 2011, the FBR for SSI payments is $674 per month for individuals and $1,011 per month for eligible couples.

That means if you receive $1,000 per month from the SSDI program, you will not be eligible for SSI payments since you’re already receiving more than the FBR. But if you receive only $300 a month from the SSDI program and you’re also eligible for the SSI program, you may receive an additional $374 per month to bring the payment amount up to the full federal benefit rate.

If you have questions about SSDI and SSI and feel you may be eligible, call our office today to set up a free consultation at 215-568-7500.

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