SSDI and SSI – What Is the Difference?

Knoxville elder law attorneys

SSDI and SSI – What Is the Difference?

At some point you may find yourself unable to work because of a mental and/or physical disability. The sudden, or even gradual, loss of the ability to work can have a devastating impact on you and your family, particularly if your income is a significant contributor to the family finances. The good news is that there are two federal assistance programs that may be able to help. The Knoxville elder law attorneys at Stivers Law explain the similarities and differences between the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs.

How Are SSI and SSDI Similar?

Like many government programs, most people know very little about SSI and SSDI unless they find themselves in a position where they need to qualify for one or the other. In fact, people frequently use the names of the programs interchangeably even though they are two very different programs. There are, however, some basic similarities between SSI and SSDI.  Both SSI and SSDI are funded by the U.S. federal government through the Social Security Administration. In addition, both are programs that provide monthly monetary assistance to individuals who are disabled. Finally, both programs use the same test to determine if an applicant meets the government’s definition of disabled. As such, the first eligibility criteria for either SSI or SSDI is a determination of disability which requires that:

  • You cannot do work that you did before AND
  • The SSA decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition AND
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

How Are SSI and SSDI Different?

Although both SSI and SSDI provide financial assistance to disabled individuals, there are several importance differences between the two programs. To be eligible for SSDI you must have a sufficient work history prior to your disability to qualify. According to the SSA guidelines, working earns you “work credits”. You need enough “work credits” to qualify for SSDI. The number of “work credits” you need will depend on your age at the time of application; however, most applicants need to have earned 20 credits during the preceding 10 years. A work credit is earned by earning a designated amount ($1,510 for the year 2022) up to a maximum of four credits a year. If you qualify for SSDI, your dependents may also qualify for monthly benefits based on your work record. Because SSDI benefits are based on your work history, the monthly benefit you receive will almost always be higher than the current SSI benefit. For 2022, the maximum monthly SSDI amount is $3,345 while the average monthly SSDI benefit is $1,358.  

Eligibility for SSI, on the other hand, has nothing to do with your work history. Instead, eligibility for SSI is based solely on your income and resources. To qualify, you must have income and resources that are below the program limits. The resources limit for an individual is just $2,000 and for a married couple $3,000. Unlike the SSDI program, SSI benefits are not available to family members based on your eligibility. You may, however, be automatically found eligible for other assistance programs, such as Medicaid, and SNAP (food stamps) if you receive SSI benefits. For 2022, the average monthly SSI benefit is $621, and the maximum is $841 for an individual.

It is possible to qualify for both SSDI and SSI if your SSDI monthly payment amount is significantly lower than the average payment amount.

Unfortunately, almost 70 percent of initial SSDI and SSI applications are denied, often because of incomplete applications or because of missing information. If you believe you may be eligible for SSI or SSDI be sure to consult with an experienced elder law attorney before applying.

Contact Knoxville Elder Law Attorneys

For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE webinar. If you have additional questions or concerns about SSDI, SSI, or other elder law issues, contact the experienced Knoxville elder law attorneys at Stivers Law by calling (305) 456-3255 to schedule an appointment.

Author Bio

Justin Stivers is the founder and managing attorney of Stivers Law, an estate planning firm specializing in wills, probate, trust administration, and financial risk management services. Justin’s approach goes beyond just creating legal documents. From aligning investments with estate plans to ensuring comprehensive insurance coverage, he safeguards a client’s legacy from unforeseen circumstances. His commitment extends beyond individual transactions, fostering lifelong partnerships to provide ongoing support and guidance.

With an impressive track record, Justin is licensed by the Florida and the Tennessee State Bars. His professional portfolio boasts Series 65 registration as a Registered Investment Advisor, the Wealth Management Specialist™ designation, and a 2-15 License for Health, Life, and Annuities. His dedication to excellence has earned him positions like Board Member of the Estate Planning Council of Greater Miami, Business Eagle Member of the Florida Justice Association, and active membership in esteemed organizations like the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

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