How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

How are they different?

Many claimants and potential claimants wonder how SSD and SSI are alike and different. On this page, we will quickly explain key similarities and differences.

First of all, how are the programs alike? To qualify for disability benefits under either Social Security Disability or SSI disability, that is to go through the evaluation process where the decision is made by a disability examiner, there is no difference between the two programs. The forms are the same, the application process is the same, and the rules for qualifying are the same. In this regard, they may as well be the same program.

How are the two programs different? The big differences have to do with the amount of money you receive and the medical benefits. SSI recipients may only receive whatever is the maximum SSI monthly benefit at any particular moment. For the year 2019, the monthly maximum SSI benefit amounts are $771 for an eligible individual, and $1,157 for an eligible SSI recipient with an eligible spouse.

Social Security Disability, on the other hand, is based on what a person paid into the system over their years of working. The average SSD benefit is currently approximately $1200. However, it is not unheard of benefits to exceed $2000 per month.

Regarding medical benefits, SSI recipients receive medicaid and SSD recipients receive medicare benefits (after a two year waiting period that is often reached by the time a person actually begins receiving their monthly disability benefits).

The criteria that allows you to file for Social Security Disability

This next section will be fairly dry so unless you wish to learn about quarters of coverage or insured status, you may wish to go here: What kind of cases win disability benefits?.

Social Security Disability is a disability insurance program based upon an insured status earned through a person’s work activity. Payroll deductions are basically the Social Security Disability insurance program’s premiums.

The earnings that the IRS reports each year determines how many quarters of coverage a person can earn for the year. The maximum amount of quarters a person can earn per year is four and the amount of quarters of coverage, or social security work credits, required for insured status depends upon the age the person became disabled.

The minimum amount of quarters of coverage required to fully insure a person is six and the maximum amount of quarters of required to be “fully insured” for disability is forty.

Social Security Disability has a second requirement for disability insured status. Not only does a disability applicant have to be fully insured for disability, they must be “currently insured” as well. Generally, current disability insured status requires a disability applicant to have worked at least twenty of the forty possible work quarters prior to the month they became disabled. However, there are special rules in place for people younger than age thirty-one.

To reiterate, to be eligible for Social Security Disability, the disability applicant must be both fully insured and currently insured.

The criteria that allows you to file for SSI Disability

SSI or Supplemental Security Income disability, on the other hand, is a disability program intended to help individuals who are not insured for Social Security Disability. Individuals who have not worked, who have worked very little (possibly entitling them to a small Social Security Disability benefit amount that is under the SSI maximum benefit amount), who have worked in the past but are no longer currently insured for Social Security Disability, and children. SSI disability is based upon need not insured status.

SSI disability beneficiaries must meet income and resource limits at the time of their disability application, when their disability claim is approved, and periodically as long as they are entitled to SSI disability benefits. SSI disability is a needs based disability program and like other needs based programs, SSI beneficiaries must meet the financial requirements of SSI to remain eligible to receive disability benefits. Whereas, Social Security Disability beneficiaries are not subject to any kind of resource and income limits.

More differences between Social Security Disability and SSI

The SSI disability program has no required waiting period; SSI disability beneficiaries are potentially eligible to begin their disability benefits with the month they file for disability. While Social Security Disability requires a five month waiting period beginning with the first full month after the date the beneficiary became unable to perform substantial work activity because of their disabling condition (unless their substantial gainful work activity began the first day of the month).

Social Security Disability may pay a disabled worker’s dependents monthly benefits based upon the disabled individual’s record, provided there is any remaining money on the record after the disabled worker is paid their disability benefit. Social Security Disability has a family maximum payable on a disabled worker’s record.

The amount payable to dependents is the difference between the disabled worker’s disability benefits and the family maximum. If there is no difference, there is no money to pay dependents. SSI disability allows no possibility of benefits for dependents. SSI disability benefits are payable to the disabled individual only.

Social Security Disability, SSI, and Health Insurance

Another important difference between SSI disability and Social Security Disability is eligibility for health insurance. In most states, SSI disability beneficiaries are eligible to begin receiving Medicaid insurance when they become entitled to disability benefits. While Social Security Disability beneficiaries, whose monthly disability benefits preclude SSI disability eligibility, will have to wait two years from the month they are eligible to receive their monthly disability benefits to receive Medicare coverage.

There are a few Social Security Disability beneficiaries who are able to receive Medicaid benefits as well as Medicare insurance benefits. Generally, these disability beneficiaries have monthly benefits that allow them to be entitled to both SSI and Social Security Disability simultaneously or they have Social Security Disability benefits that are low enough to receive Medicaid even though they are too high for SSI disability entitlement.

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

Related pages:

SSI Disability - Filing for SSI Benefits
How much time does it take to get an SSI Decision?
What Benefits come with SSI Disability?
Is There A Maximum Dollar Amount For SSI Disability?
What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?
What Disabilities Qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability Benefits?
What are the Assets that count for SSI Disability?
SSI Benefits - who is Eligible and How do I apply for them?
SSI Benefits - what do they include and how long does it take
What are the Application Requirements For SSI Disability?
The SSI Award Letter from Social Security
Does SSI disability come with automatic medical care?
Determining Social Security Disability and SSI eligibility
If you apply for disability in in Colorado
Getting a Disability Lawyer in Colorado

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.