SSDI vs. SSI: Which One Should You Apply For?

Differences Between SSDI and SSI

If you’re unable to work and face financial stress, one of the first things you’re going to want to do is qualify for some type of benefits. But how do you know which one to apply for? What’s the true difference between SSDI and SSI?

SSDI Explained

SSDI is Social Security Disability Insurance, and it’s part of the Social Security program. If you have worked and paid into Social Security in the form of FICA deductions or self-employment taxes, you may be able to qualify for SSDI if you meet all other requirements.

Most people consider the Social Security deduction on their paychecks to be part of their income taxes, but this money actually goes into a completely different fund — the Social Security fund. You pay into this fund throughout your working years and, when you’re old enough to retire, you’ll get some of it back every month.

If you are physically unable to make it to retirement age due to a disability, however, SSDI may kick in. In these cases, Social Security behaves more as an insurance benefit than as a retirement fund. The amount you receive in benefits every month is directly tied to how much you paid into Social Security while you worked.

The key here is that, in order to qualify, you must have paid in through regular paycheck deductions at a significant rate for a minimum of 5 out of the most recent 10 years. For people who become disabled prior to the age of 31, this rule is modified based on age and contribution level.

SSI Explained

SSI is Supplemental Security Income and does not have any work requirements. It’s completely different from SSDI, because it is designed for low income disabled persons who do not have an adequate work history or any work history at all. SSI is a needs-based program, similar to state social welfare programs; whereas SSDI is funded by the general income taxes paid by all working citizens.

In order to qualify for SSI, you must be both disabled and extremely cash poor with no real source of income. You may or may not be allowed to have certain assets, but not more than $2,000 in liquid assets. Your home and one car are usually exempted from consideration, but second homes or vacation homes are not exempt. Children under the age of 18 who are disabled and whose parents meet the income and resource limits may also qualify for SSI.

It can be much more challenging to qualify for SSI than SSDI because of SSI’s strict income and resources requirements — but the requirements for disability are the same for both programs.

Whichever program you apply for, it is vital that you obtain the counsel of a qualified lawyer to guide you throughout the process. If you need an SSI or SSD lawyer in Pennsylvania, contact the law office of Lisa M. Ritacco by calling 877-459-4799 today.