Social Security basics: what’s the difference between SSDI & SSI?

  Terry Katz & Associates  |  April 13, 2016  | Last modified on October 17th, 2018 | 

The world is full of acronyms, and sometimes, it is vitally important to understand the differences between them. This is especially true when it comes to Social Security Disability (SSD) Benefits and the two types of SSD benefits a person can receive. Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, and Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, are two different programs provided by the Social Security Administration. Although their goal is the same, to provide financial support to disabled Americans, how the two programs are funded and how New Yorkers qualify are different.

The definition of the disability is the same for both SSDI and SSI programs — an applicant must prove that he or she has a debilitating medical or mental condition or injury that prohibits the applicant from maintaining gainful work activities for at least a year, or that the condition or injury is expected to end in the applicant’s death. The financial situation and whether the applicant paid into Social Security through previous income taxes help determine which program is applicable to the applicant.

Social Security Disability Insurance is for applicants who have paid into the program through payroll taxes with their previous employment. The applicant must have put in at least 20 quarters worth of coverage over the previous 10 years.

Supplemental Security Income is for applicants who do not qualify for SSDI benefits, but who fall within certain minimum financial qualifications. To qualify for SSI benefits, an applicant must meet certain income levels and have less than $2,000 combined in cash and bank accounts. The value of an applicant’s home or vehicles valued under $4,500 will not be included in this calculation.

In order to avoid having a Social Security Disability claim rejected, it is important to understand these distinctions. Applicants must make every effort to properly fill out the appropriate paperwork. Although there is an appeals process, it is time-consuming and will only delay an application.

Source:, “What is the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?,” accessed on April 12, 2016

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