What’s the Difference between SSDI and SSI?

There seems to be a never-ending supply of government acronyms. There are actually entire websites devoted to helping people decode government acronyms. With all these letters flying around it can be hard to keep everything straight. One of the most common acronym mistakes is confusing SSDI with SSI or vice versa.

While the programs may sound similar they are actually two different government programs intended to help two different groups of people. Both programs are under the authority of the Social Security Administration (SSA) and both programs assist individuals who are found disabled.



Think of Social Security Disability Insurance as a safety net for people who become disabled and can no longer work. This program is funded by payroll taxes people pay into via their FICA Social Security taxes. By paying these taxes and contributing to the Social Security trust fund each person is “insured”, in a way. After working for a certain amount of time and paying taxes, individuals will earn work credits. Depending on your age, you must obtain a certain amount of these credits to be eligible for SSDI.


An individual eligible for SSDI and found disabled under Social Security law will receive monthly payments based on their past earnings record. Also, a  person receiving SSDI for two years will then be eligible for Medicare benefits. Keep in mind, the SSA will not pay any SSDI benefits for the first five months after you become disabled, so be prepared for this 5 month waiting period.



Supplemental Security Income is also a disability program but has nothing to do with prior work record; it is strictly a need-based program. Unlike SSDI, this program is funded by a general tax fund. SSI is intended for individuals with low-income and who have less than $2,000 in assets individually or $3,000 as a couple. Also unlike the SSDI program, an individual that is not disabled but meets the income and asset guidelines may qualify for SSI benefits at the age of 65. The amount a recipient will receive depends on their monthly income and their living situation.


If you are considering applying for Social Security benefits of any kind it’s important to know which program best fits your needs and circumstances. Social Security benefits attorney Jan Dils is ready to help you through the application process. Jan and her team will help you find the right program and help you get the right benefits.

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Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law

Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law