There are two federal programs that individuals can apply for when they become disabled and are unable to work. Figuring out the difference between these two programs can often be confusing. Here are some basic similarities. Both of these programs — Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) — are funded by the federal government to provide financial support for individuals who are disabled for 12 or more months. In both programs you are required to prove that you are not able to work as a result of a physical or mental condition. For both programs, you must also show that your condition is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death.
So what is the difference between SSDI and SSI? The major difference between SSDI and SSI is the non-medical proof you must show to qualify.
SSDI is a federal insurance program of the government that is funded by your payroll taxes. That means if you are working and paying taxes, you are paying into this federal insurance program. Your eligibility for SSDI is based on whether you have worked for enough time and paid enough into the system. Generally, if you have worked for 5 of the past 10 years as of the date of onset of disability, you will qualify for SSDI. Younger claimants need to work for less time to become insured by SSDI. Your benefit amount is based on your earnings. By and large, the more you earned, the more benefits you will receive if you qualify for SSDI.
SSI is a needs-based program of the government administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). To qualify, SSA will evaluate your financial situation, and not your previous work. SSA will assess your financial situation by examining your assets and determining how much SSI benefit you are eligible for based on any income you receive.
In certain circumstances you can receive benefits under both SSDI and SSI. This generally occurs when you apply for and qualify for both programs and your SSDI benefits are under the SSI benefit amount you would be eligible for. As a result, it is generally a good idea for claimants to apply for both SSDI and SSI at the initial stage of the application process to ensure receipt of the maximum benefits.
Consulting with a FA PLUS DISABILITY Advocate early on in the process can often help you make a stronger case for benefits.