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Is there a difference between SSDI and SSI?

Americans can receive either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from the Social Security Administration (SSA). What these two programs have in common is that both provide a supplemental income to individuals who cannot work due to medical disability. However, SSI and SSDI are intended for two very different populations.

What Are the Differences Between SSDI and SSI?

Eligibility is the main difference between SSI and SSDI. if you paid taxable income to the government throughout your lifetime, you are probably eligible for SSDI. In contrast, SSI is generally considered an alternative for those who don't qualify for SSDI.

Essentially, the SSA created the SSDI program for individuals who worked in the past yet can no longer work due to a physical or mental disability. The SSA created the SSI programs for those who are low-income and have not paid enough taxable income to "the system" to qualify for the SSDI program.

How Can You Qualify for SSDI?

If you have an illness or injury that hinders your ability to work for more than 12 months, you may want to consider SSDI. The illness or injury can be physical or mental. To qualify for the program, it doesn't matter whether you sustained the injury or illness on the job. However, you must have had employment at some time in your life to qualify for SSDI. Other requirements for SSDI include the following:

  • You must have earned at least 20 quarters of coverage in the 10 years preceding your disability.
  • You must be fully insured under the Social Security program.
  • You must be willing to wait a five-month waiting period so that SSA can validate that the injury or illness is long-term.

How Can You Qualify for SSI?

You should consider applying for SSI if you haven't been employed at any point in your life. If you haven't been employed for at last five years out of the 10 years before the beginning of the disability, then you should consider applying for SSI as you may not qualify for SSDI.

The SSI program requires that applicants have assets worth less than $2000. Applicants must also have an illness or injury that hinders them from working for more than a full year.

Many people harbor the misconception that SSI and SSDI are two different terms for the same thing. However, while SSI and SSDI both help supplement the income of the disabled, both programs serve very distinct populations. A disability lawyer can help explain the difference in more detail, as well as which program might make more sense for you or your loved one.

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