Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security disability benefits versus Supplemental Security Income benefits

Most people confuse Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) with Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and no wonder! Even their acronyms are almost the same! But in fact, SSDI and SSI are two completely different federal programs designed to provide financial assistance to the disabled.


Length of employment

The main difference between SSDI and SSI as far as a benefits applicant is the duration of work requirement. Under SSDI, the applicant must have worked for a requisite period depending on the age of disability onset. Under the SSI, there is no such requirement; you may qualify for SSI even if you have never worked a day in your life.

Funding source

Another difference between SSDI and SSI are their source of funding. SSDI is actually an insurance program which is paid for through payroll taxes. You, as an employee, are paying for SSDI through the taxes imposed on your paycheck every month. This is why you need to have worked for a certain period to accumulate the required credit to be eligible for SSDI. For example, if you become disabled before the age of 24, you must have worked at least 18 months in the last 3 years. SSI, on the other hand, is funded through general taxes, which means that children and the disabled who have never been gainfully employed can get financial assistance through SSI.

Total and partial disability

It should also be noted that an applicant for SSDI must meet “recent work test” criteria, which essentially investigates work status at the time of the disability, the extent of the disability and its impact on gainful employment. In other words, to qualify under SSDI, you must be completely unable to do work for at least 12 months because of your disability, or the disability is life threatening. Partially disabled applicants may qualify under SSI even if they are capable of gainful employment provided their disability is severe and long-term, and has a significant impact on their ability to work.

However, under both SSDI and SSI there are a set of eligibility requirements that an applicant must meet in order to receive the benefits of either program. It is also possible than an applicant may qualify for benefits under both SSDI and SSI, but certain conditions may apply.

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