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What is the Difference Between SSI and SSDI?

By A. B. Kelsey
Updated May 23, 2024
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Although many people use the terms Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) interchangeably, the two are actually different federal programs. SSDI is an insurance program funded by an individual’s payroll taxes. The SSI, on the other hand, is a need-based income supplement program funded by general tax revenues. However, both programs are managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA), and for both the SSDI and the SSI programs, a worker must be determined to be physically or mentally disabled and unable to work for at least one year.

The SSDI program provides benefits to the disabled or blind individuals who are considered "insured" because of their contributions to the Social Security trust fund. These contributions are the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) social security tax paid on the workers’ earnings.

According to the Social Security Administration, a person qualifies for SSDI, also called Social Security Disability Benefits or SSD, if they have a physical or mental condition that prevents them from working for at least twelve months or that will cause them to die. Eligible candidates must also be younger than 65 and have worked at least five out of the last ten years. Disabled people who qualify should receive SSDI until their condition improves. If their condition will not improve, SSDI is intended to be a guaranteed source of income for them.

The Supplemental Security Income program is a cash assistance program which is based on an individual’s financial need, not on an individual’s work history. The SSI is financed by general tax funds of the U.S. Treasury. The SSI program was set up to help the blind, disabled, and elderly people with little or no income by providing them with a monthly check to pay for food, clothing, and shelter.

In order to be eligible to receive SSI benefits, an individual must be physically or mentally disabled, blind, or be at least sixty-five years old. An eligible candidate must also have limited resources and income. Children who are blind or disabled are also eligible to receive SSI funds.

People who receive SSI are usually also eligible to receive monthly food stamps and Medicaid, which helps pay for doctor visits and hospital bills. The amount of SSI an individual can receive depends on where the person lives, what he or she owns, and the amount of monthly income the person brings in. Thus, SSI benefits are more limited than SSDI benefits.

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Discussion Comments

By shopgirl — On Aug 18, 2013

Thank you for your site. I had to quit working (while receiving SSDI - Trial Work Program) because I became physically incapable of doing my job for the required hours of each shift. I re-applied for SSDI but was granted SSI a month after I quit my job. I also was found ineligible to continue receiving my SSDI benefits a year ago due to substantial gain. I received a letter two days ago informing me SSA found me not disabled because even though my back and leg prevent me from walking longer than 30 minutes, they feel my hands and arms leave me able to return to a clerical position due to my past 15 year work history.

The job I had to quit was a walking and standing job. Now I'm fearing I will lose the SSI and will be left with no income. I and my family feel I'm not capable of interviewing let alone holding down a job at this point. Will I lose my SSI? Thank you for any help you are able to offer.

By anon325753 — On Mar 18, 2013

I was told by ssa that you can spend down the proceeds of your sale by buying another house. This is not supposed to have a negative effect on your ssi or ssd. The problem is I cannot find that in print. Can anyone tell me exactly where this is in print by ssa?

By reno876 — On Jul 14, 2012

I draw ssi for a mental disability. If I move to another country will I lose this income?

By anon256613 — On Mar 22, 2012

My brother has received a monthly check for his disability, but we are not sure if it is considered SSI or SSDI. How can we find out? There is nothing on the check or his annual statement to tell us which it is? He has received it for over 40 years, so my mom doesn't have the paperwork.

By anon144111 — On Jan 18, 2011

My husband receives SSDI because he was born legally blind. Two years before we married, I bought a house. The mortgage has always been in my name.

Long story short, it is an old, home in ill repair and we cannot afford the energy bills, so we'd like to sell the house for the balance owed and find something we can afford. Will this affect my husband's SSDI payments?

By anon132934 — On Dec 08, 2010

Can someone receiving ssdi move to another country and receive these benefits there?

By anon129536 — On Nov 24, 2010

I have a severe bipolar disorder, but I work. I'm constantly on edge. But you can receive SSDI while working if you make less than $1100.00 per month.

By anon123277 — On Nov 01, 2010

What is the difference between SSI and RSDI?

By anon116378 — On Oct 06, 2010

they don't take your house. they know you need it to live. your house is not counted and they will not take your ssdi monies already received away because you have to live there.

By anon114608 — On Sep 29, 2010

I have applied for ssd or ssdi. not sure what the difference is and if anyone can generate a small income to help with expenses such as renting out or working part time light work.

By anon110356 — On Sep 11, 2010

I'm in CA, diagnosed in Decemebr 2009 with stage 4 breast cancer with liver metastasis. Can I be considered for SSI? I exhausted my SSDI in Jul 2010 which was only $216 a month. My husband only makes a little over $4,000 per month, which is not enough for all our bills. I did not qualify for food stamps because of his income. what are other government benefits that can help me? thanks

By anon97848 — On Jul 21, 2010

i have ssdi. how can i get more help in getting my medication? i cannot get what i need. they only pay half. that's OK for some but when it is $300 a month i can't, so i go without it and stay in pain all the time.

By anon65059 — On Feb 10, 2010

Hello i have a question. Can two disabled people get ssi in the same household? example mother and son in law?

By anon64982 — On Feb 10, 2010

you may apply for ssdi at your local social security office.

By anon40138 — On Aug 06, 2009

my husband receives ssdi. We own our home, but it is for sale. We have equity enough in the home to move to arizona so he can be close to his family to purchase another home and pay it off when our home on the market sells. Will this affect his disability?

By anon36874 — On Jul 15, 2009

Your resources cannot be worth more than $2000, or $3000 as a couple. Resources include, cars, house, bank accounts, jewelry, etc. Therefore, if the SSA finds out about your house, they will cease payment. Not only that, they might ask for the money back that they have given to you.

As for the expensive medical care. If you have paid enough tax over the years, and depending on age, you could have medicare. You do not need to start digging in your retirment funds.

By anon18697 — On Sep 28, 2008

If I am over 65 and have a low enough monthly income to qualify for SSI, may I continue to own my home in San Diego CA?

By anon14227 — On Jun 12, 2008

Can someone advise me where to apply or who to contact on where to apply for SSDI? I have survived two stokes, and on expensive medication called Aggrenox, no generics available at the present.

Thanks for any help.

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