Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) vs. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are given to individuals who become disabled and are unable to work. These benefits are determined by a person’s work history. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program, designed to give financial assistance to those suffering from disabilities. SSI benefits are based on a person’s income and assets, not their work history.

About SSDI

To obtain Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, you must meet the definition of “disabled.” This means that you have a physical or mental impairment that is so severe that you are not able to perform your previous work, or engage in any other type of substantial, gainful employment. The impairment must be expected to result in death or must have lasted (or is expected to last) for a year or more. SSDI benefits are awarded by the Social Security Administration, and include a complex application process that can involve multiple hearings and possible appeals.

If the Social Security Administration approves your application and decides that you meet the eligibility requirements, you must wait five months before collecting payment. SSDI benefits will begin at the sixth month and continue until two months after your disability improves or you are able to start working again.

About SSI

The SSI program is a cash assistance program that is based on an individual’s financial need. Unlike SSDI benefits that are funded by the Social Security Administration, SSI is financed by the U.S. Treasury. It was created to help those who were blind, elderly and disabled and who had little or no income. The SSI program grants the underserved population a monthly check for things like food, clothing, and shelter.

To be eligible for SSI, you must be physically or mentally disabled, blind, or be at least 65 years old with limited resources and income. Children who are blind or disabled may also qualify to receive SSI benefits.

Those who receive SSI benefits typically qualify for monthly food stamps and Medicaid, which offers assistance with doctor visits and hospital bills. The amount of money you can receive depends on several factors, such as:

• Where you live
• What you own (real estate, vehicles, land, etc.)
• Your monthly income
• Amount of stocks, bonds, and money in bank accounts


In order to collect SSDI benefits, you must have worked full-time for at least one year prior to acquiring your disability. With SSI, you are not required to have ever worked to receive benefits. SSI funds are distributed to disabled children, low-income elderly, and those who are blind or have a qualifying disability.

Other examples of individuals who can collect SSI benefits include those who:

• Are terminally ill
• Are mentally retarded
• Have heart defects

To qualify for SSI funds, you must be a citizen of the United States. Children who receive SSI are given money based on the income of their parents or guardians, who must be legal citizens of the United States and display a valid Social Security card.

If Your Claim is Denied

If your claim for SSDI or SSI benefits is denied, you have the right to appeal. A Social Security Benefits attorney can help you through this process to help increase your chances of a successful claim the second time around.

About the Author:
If you or a loved one has filed for SSDI or SSI benefits and have been denied, or need assistance applying for these benefits, please visit the website for Virginia Social Security disability attorneys Kalfus & Nachman, serving the Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News and Roanoke, Virginia areas.
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