Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) often get confused for each other, but they are two distinct government programs. While both programs are managed by the Social Security Administration, they have very different eligibility criteria and have different benefits rules. In this post, we will detail the difference between SSI and SSDI, including which program pays more, whether you can get both benefits, and the average payment amounts each program.

"SSI vs. SSDI"

What is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides minimum basic financial assistance to older adults and persons with disabilities (regardless of age) with very limited income and resources.

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia offer supplemental SSI payments, in addition to the federal benefit payments.

What you need to qualify for SSI benefits depends on your age. For a detailed review of the SSI eligibility criteria, see our post on What is SSI benefits and who is Eligible?

What is SSDI?

Social Security disability insurance (SSDI Benefits) is a Social Security program that pays monthly benefits to you if you become disabled before you reach retirement age and are not able to work.

In order to qualify, you have to have a qualifying work history, either through their own employment or a family member (spouse/parent).

For a detailed review of the SSDI eligibility criteria, see our post on SSDI Benefits Eligibility and How to Apply.

The Monthly Benefits Amount Can Be Very Different

First, SSI and SSDI benefits vary widely when it comes to the monthly benefit amount that is paid to recipients.

In 2020, the federal SSI payment standard will be $783 per month for an individual (with most states adding a small supplementary payment),

However, the average SSDI payment will be $1,258 a month.

In addition, since SSDI is based on the beneficiary’s earnings record, some SSDI recipients can receive much more than this.

Also, SSI benefits are reduced by any other income received by an SSI beneficiary, so many SSI recipients will receive less than the $783 payment standard.

To see how income affects SSI benefits, see our SSI Payment Calculator post here.

SSI Is a Means-Tested Program

SSI is designed to meet the basic needs of elderly, blind, and disabled individuals who would otherwise have a hard time paying for food and shelter.

Because the SSI is targeted at this specific group of people, it has a very strict set of financial requirements, making it what is known as a “means-tested” benefit.

By contrast, SSDI benefits are available to any person who has paid into the Social Security system for at least ten years, regardless of his current income and assets.

As a result, in theory, all qualified workers are potential SSDI recipients, even high-income earners.

However, younger beneficiaries and disabled adult children of retired or deceased workers may have to meet different requirements.

When benefits begin

Another major difference between SSI and SSDI is when benefit payments begin after you are approved.

Supplemental Security Income benefits payments start from the first full month after the date the claim was filed or if later.

On the other hand, Social Security Disability Insurance payments start from the sixth full month of disability.

The 6-month period begins with the first full month after the date SSA decides the disability began.

Medicaid versus Medicare Coverage

In most cases, a person who receives SSI immediately qualifies for Medicaid benefits.

On the other hand, SSDI beneficiaries are eligible to receive Medicare two years after they are deemed eligible for SSDI benefits.

However, Medicare is not as comprehensive as Medicaid, and many Medicare beneficiaries purchase what are known as private “Medigap” policies to fill in the holes in their primary Medicare coverage.

SSI vs. SSDI Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most frequently asked questions about SSI and SSDI benefits:

Which pays more – SSDI or SSI?

People on SSDI generally receive much bigger payments than those on SSI.

For example, in 2020, the average SSDI payment is around $1,237 per month, whereas the maximum SSI payment is $783 per month for an individual.

Who is entitled to Social Security Disability benefits?

If you are unable to work because of a qualifying physical or mental impairment, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.

However, SSDI benefits are available to all workers who have worked at least five of the last 10 years.

If you have not worked, you may still qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

Can I receive both SSI and SSDI benefits?

Yes, it is possible that if you have both limited income/resources and a work history, you can qualify for both benefits.

However, in most cases, if a person receives an SSDI benefit that is higher than the maximum SSI payment, they are not eligible for SSI at all.

What is the Ticket to Work program?

The Ticket to Work Program provides people receiving Social Security disability benefits (SSDI or SSI) more choices for receiving employment services.

The main goal of the program is to assist people on disability benefits in reducing their reliance on disability benefits and become self-sufficient.

For more information about the program, click here.

At what age do SSDI Benefits Convert to Social Security Retirement Benefits?

Your SSDI benefits convert to Social Security retirement benefits at the full retirement age, or FRA.

The FRA is the point at which you qualify for 100 percent of the benefits Social Security calculates from your lifetime earnings.

At full retirement age — currently 66 and gradually rising to 67 over the next several years — your SSDI payment converts to a retirement benefit.

Do SSI Benefits Convert to Social Security Retirement Benefits?

Unlike Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments do not automatically convert to Social Security Retirement benefits upon reaching retirement age.

Unfortunately, not only do SSI payments not automatically convert to retirement payments, but the Social Security Administration (SSA) can essentially force you to apply for early retirement benefits at 62, instead of waiting for your full retirement age.

One of the requirements of continuing to receive SSI benefits is that you apply for any other cash benefits that are available, including retirement benefits.

Therefore the Social Security Administration forces you to apply for Social Security Retirement benefits at the earliest time you become eligible, which is age 62.

However, the good news is that you will be able to receive both retirement and SSI at the same time, so your overall monthly benefit amount will not decrease.

For example, If you are currently receiving the maximum SSI amount of $735 per month and begin to receive $500 in early retirement benefits, you will still receive $735 per month: $500 will be retirement benefits, and $235 will be SSI benefits.

Difference Between SSI and SSDI Summary

We hope this post on the Difference Between SSI and SSDI was helpful.

If you have further questions about Social Security, SSI, or SSDI, please let us know in the comments section below.

Be sure to check out our other articles on Social Security including How to apply for SSI Benefits, What is SSI Eligibility Criteria?, SSI Benefits Calculator, SSI payments ScheduleSocial Security Questions and Answers, and SSI Wage reporting instructions

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