What’s the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?

The government is notoriously rife with acronyms. Some are well-known — FBI, CIA, DEA, ATF — and others, not as common. Even acronyms you hear with some regularity have a way of merging together, the lines and letters blending until you can hardly tell NASA and the FTC apart. SSD and SSI are only off by one letter, but they carry entirely different meanings. Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates can help you determine which is best for you.

Going through the disability application process, you may come across several terms with multi-letter acronyms. That gets confusing fast. How do you know the difference between SSD and SSI and SSA? Fortunately, our Social Security/Disability lawyers are here to give a simple breakdown of the terms – and what they stand for – so the next time you encounter them you can stay informed. Knowing the terms ahead of time can help you ask the right questions of your legal team or avoid a costly delay in receiving benefits. Yes, it’s that important.

What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Supplemental Security Income or SSI is a need-based financial assistance program maintained by the federal government. Of course, the funds come from general taxpayer dollars, which means all those paying federal taxes pay into the program whether they want to, or not. SSI is a “means tested” program, meaning you must possess $2,000 or less in total assets and earn a very limited income. Qualifying for SSI may not mean you’re eligible for other forms of aid, though limited finances generally make it easier to obtain food stamps, insurance through Medicaid, and other assistance programs operated at the state level.

What is Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI)?

SSD or SSDI benefits come from the Social Security Administration funded through payroll taxes across the nation. Everyone who pays taxes from working contributes to the fund and may access it upon obtaining sufficient work credits and meeting other eligibility criteria, including suffering from a condition that limits their functional capacity for at least 12 months. After receiving benefits from Social Security Disability for two years, you may become eligible for health coverage under Medicare.

This type of assistance is technically a form of insurance because every worker in the United States with sufficient working credits is “covered” under the plan. If you meet the criteria, you may begin receiving regular payments after the five-month waiting period has expired. The federal government imposes this waiting period for obtaining benefits on everyone – no exceptions. However, once payments begin, the first is usually a lump sum backdated to the original date of injury or qualifying illness, which can help you recover from any short-term financial consequences of going without aid.

 Who Can Qualify For SSI/SSDI?

First and foremost, the acronyms SSI and SSDI stand for completely different concepts. SSI refers to Supplemental Security Income, while SSDI refers to Social Security Disability Insurance. Both types of assistance fall to the Social Security Administration (SSA), which evaluates whether or not an individual qualifies.

There are myriad conditions that can qualify an individual. Impairments as varied as epilepsy, visual impairment, asthma, and burns are just a few of the health conditions listed by the SSA as potentially eligible disabilities.


So What’s The Difference?

On their website, the SSA briefly describes the difference between the programs. “The Social Security Disability Insurance program pays benefits to you and certain family members if you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. The Supplemental Security Income program pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources.

Let’s break down what that means for you.

First of all, you’ll need to apply for disability benefits. If you qualify for disability benefits, the payment you receive will be calculated differently depending on which program you’ve entered. In the SSDI program, the monthly amount you receive is calculated based upon your lifetime earnings, on average, prior to your disability affecting your work. With SSI, the monthly payment is based on need, and varies from state to state. The good news is that Pennsylvania is one of the states which offers a state supplement.

“Social security is only for the elderly,” is a common misconception that should be cleared up. While SSDI does carry the stipulation that the disability must have begun before the age of 22 was reached, both SSDI and SSI can in fact be granted to children and young adults.

Another key difference is that in the SSDI program, whatever the impairment, the expectation is that it will either:

  • last for a minimum of 12 months.
  • end in the recipient’s death.

Medical coverage is another area where SSDI and SSI take a divergent approach. With SSDI, the worker in question will automatically receive Medicare coverage after two years of receiving benefits. With SSI, on the other hand, the individual automatically receives Medicaid. (In Pennsylvania, dual eligibility is a possibility, as detailed by the Pennsylvania Health Law Project.)

Exceptions to Waiting Periods

Did we say no exceptions? As always, there are circumstances that allow you to claim SSD benefits without a five-month waiting period. For example, if you were receiving payments from Social Security Disability, went back to work, only to become disabled once more, you won’t have to wait another five months. In addition, if you apply for benefits as the child of someone who is disabled, you won’t be subject to the waiting period.

Knowing the difference in these terms and how to apply them can be difficult. Hiring a team of seasoned legal professionals to handle your application for disability benefits can increase your chances for first-time approval, and provide you with a knowledgeable resource as your application moves forward. If you’re hurt, and cannot work, call our attorneys today to get the help you really need.

Social security is a complex issue for millions of Americans. If you’re one of them, the Pennsylvania disability lawyers at Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates can help.

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