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SSI vs. SSDI: Differences Between Social Security Programs

social security program of the US government
Samyak Lalit
Samyak Lalit | July 20, 2021 (Last update: July 24, 2021)

Samyak Lalit is an author and disability rights activist. He is a polio survivor and the founder of projects like Kavita Kosh, Gadya Kosh, TechWelkin, WeCapable, Dashamlav and Viklangta Dot Com. Website:

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are the major programs administered by Social Security Administration (SSA). Both are federal financial assistance program that makes a monthly payment. And, are confused to be the same by many. But, SSI and SSDI are fundamentally different programs. In this article, we have listed down the common differences between both of them.

List of Differences between SSI and SSDI
Basis of DifferenceSupplemental Security Income (SSI)Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
BeneficiarySSI benefits are meant for

  • Older adults (over 65 years), and,
  • Persons with Disabilities (regardless of age)

who have limited income and resources.

SSDI benefits are for those persons with disabilities who have a qualifying work history. They should have contributed to Social Security Fund and are now not able to work due to their disability.
Eligibility DeterminationThe eligibility for SSI benefits are determined based on –

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Financial Condition (limited income and resources)
The eligibility for SSDI is determined based on –

  • Earning history or work credits
  • Incapability to continue previous work or get a new job
Medicaid and Medicare FacilityPeople who qualify for SSI benefits automatically qualify for Medicaid (in most states).People getting SSDI benefits qualify for Medicare after receiving 24-months of SSDI payment. (People with ALS qualify for Medicare immediately)
Beginning of BenefitSSI payments start after one month of determination of eligibility.SSDI benefits begin after 6 months of disability i.e. 6-months after the date SSA decides the disability began.
Amount of BenefitDepends on various factors including the place of residence and income and resources of self and spouse.Depends on the work and earning history i.e. average lifetime earnings.
Underage vs. AdultsChildren with disabilities too may get SSI benefits if their parents have limited income and resources.SSDI benefits are only for adults with disabilities. Children are not eligible to apply for SSDI.
BasisSSI is a need-based program. It aims at fulfilling basic needs such as food, clothes and shelter.SSDI is an entitlement-based program. A person pays social security taxes while on the job and thus they deserve the benefit when disability limits their capability.
FinanceSSI is funded by general tax revenue.SSDI is financed by contributions of employers, employees and self-employed individuals.
Family BenefitsSSI benefits are provided on an individual basis. No family member will receive any benefit if a person qualifies for SSI.Eligible family members like spouses and underage children too get benefits if a person qualifies for SSDI.
Other IncomeIncome from other sources may affect the amount of payment or even eligibility to get SSI benefits.Other income (except wages) may not affect the amount or eligibility to SSDI.
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