What Is the Difference Between Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income?

by Sep 6, 2017Disability Benefits

Home » Blog » Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) » What Is the Difference Between Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income?

If you have a disability that prevents you from working, you might be eligible for benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA is a government office whose primary function is providing income to those who are elderly or have disabilities. You can apply for benefits through the SSA and a disability attorney can help you put together a strong application.

Before you get started, it is important to understand there are different types of disability programs. Your unique circumstances—including your medical condition, income, and work history—determine which program will fit your needs and give you the best chance of approval. The two main programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

The attorneys at the Disability Advantage Group, have experience winning disability benefits for our clients. We can help you understand the difference between SSDI and SSI, build a strong case on your behalf, and help you apply for benefits. Call 865-566-0800 today to set up a free, no-obligation case review with a disability lawyer.

What Is the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?

The biggest difference between SSDI and SSI is that the former is a disability insurance program that draws its funding from tax deductions from workers’ paychecks, while the latter is a need-based program for low-income people with disabilities.

Like other types of insurance, SSDI only offers benefits to those who have paid premiums into the program. Thus, you must have a sufficient work history and have paid payroll taxes to qualify for SSDI. By contrast, SSI is a need-based welfare program. Benefit recipients under the SSI program have income and assets that fall below a certain threshold. If you make too much money or your net worth is too high, you cannot receive SSI.

The key is figuring out which program’s eligibility requirements fit your situation. Occasionally, an applicant finds themselves in an in-between zone—they do not have enough work history for SSDI, but they still make too much income for SSI. Our attorneys can navigate such situations and find a way to get you approval for benefits.

What Are the Requirements for SSDI?

To meet eligibility requirements for SSDI, you have to meet the SSA’s work history and disability criteria. This means you must have a sufficient work history, as well as a disability that the SSA believes renders you incapable of working.

Work History

The SSA uses a credit system to determine if you have enough work history to qualify for SSDI. As of 2017, you earn one credit for each $1,300 of income you earn. You can earn a maximum of four credits per year. In other words, you only earn SSDI credits for your first $5,200 of annual income; any money you make above that amount does not increase your eligibility for the program.

The number of credits you need to qualify for SSDI depends on several factors, including your age and how recently you earned the credits. Generally, you must have a total of at least 40 credits and you must have earned 20 of them in the decade immediately prior to your disability. The SSA does make exceptions for younger workers, however. It would be unreasonable to expect a fully disabled 22-year-old to have accumulated 40 credits, given that you can only earn four per year.


You also must prove to the SSA that your disability meets its criteria to receive benefits. Doing so can be highly subjective, which is why it helps to have a skilled and experienced disability attorney making the case for you.

To consider you disabled, the SSA will look for proof showing:

  • Your condition prevents you from working;
  • You cannot adjust to new work at another job; and
  • Your doctor expects your medical condition to last at least one year or result in death.

The SSA will determine you are unable to work if you cannot earn more than the substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit. In 2017, this limit is $1,170 per month for most applicants. If you are blind, the limit rises to $1,950.

What Are the Requirements for SSI?

To meet eligibility requirements for SSI, your income and assets cannot exceed a certain amount. Additionally, your disability must meet the same criteria needed to qualify for SSDI.

SSI Income and Asset Limits

The maximum income you can earn and still qualify for SSI is the Federal benefit rate. As of 2017, this rate is $735 per month. Moreover, the SSA will analyze your financial records to determine how much money you make in earned income, unearned income, in-kind income, and deemed income. They will then perform a complicated calculation to determine how much countable income you earn each month. They subtract this amount from the Federal benefit rate and the resulting number equals your monthly benefit amount.

Keep in mind, the SSA does not count all the money you earn when determining if you qualify for SSI. The organization will likely exclude some portions of your income during its calculations. Our disability attorneys can help you figure out your countable income and any applicable deductions or exemptions.

SSI also has asset limits. As of 2017, you cannot receive SSI if your countable resources exceed $2,000 for individuals or $3,000 for couples. Again, some of your assets, such as your primary residence and vehicle, are not counted toward your total resources.

Call 865-566-0800 to Speak to a Skilled, Experienced, and Compassionate Social Security Attorney.

A good disability attorney can help you present the strongest and most winnable case to the SSA. At the Disability Advantage Group, what sets us apart from other attorneys—aside from our experience and winning track record—is the relationships we build with our clients. Because our clients are like family to us, we take the outcome of their cases personally and fight relentlessly for their rights.

Are you ready to begin? We offer free consultations so you can meet us face to face, talk about your case, and see what we can do for you. Call 865-566-0800 today for an appointment.