Social Security Disability Insurance vs. Supplemental Security Income

Many people refer simply to “Social Security” benefits that they receive, though in reality, there are key differences between Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). Put simply, SSI provides benefits for basic financial assistance to seniors and adults with disabilities who have minimal financial resources of their own. SSDI provides benefits to adults with disabilities who have a history of employment and can no longer work.

The following are some of the differences between the two types of benefits. For information about your specific situation, you should consult with a disability attorney in your area.

Who is eligible?

SSI is based on being over age 65 or having blindness or having another disability plus having no income or limited resources. SSDI is based on having a qualified disability plus sufficient work credits of their own or through a spouse or parent.

When can you start receiving benefits?

SSI benefits can start the first full month after you file a claim or the date the SSA determined you were eligible, whichever is later. SSDI can begin the sixth full month of an applicant’s disability after the SSA determines eligibility.

What is the maximum monthly benefit?

For SSI recipients, the maximum monthly payment for 2021 is $954 for a single adult.

Are there health insurance benefits available?

SSI recipients also receive automatic qualification for Medi-Cal when they begin receiving benefits. SSDI recipients can qualify for Medicare after 24 months from the time benefits begin, except there is no waiting period for Medicare eligibility for individuals diagnosed with ALS.

How do you apply for SSI or SSDI?

If you are a disabled adult, the SSI application is available online. However, there is no online application available for adults qualifying based on age of 65 or older or parents applying for benefits of a disabled child. These applicants need to call 1-800-772-1213 during business hours, which are Monday through Friday, 7:00 am through 7:00 pm.

Individuals applying for SSDI based on a disability have the option of applying online or calling the SSA. However, it is always wise to consult with a disability lawyer before you apply since you want to make sure you submit the strongest possible application from the start.

Can my application be denied?

Both SSI and SSDI applications can be denied for a variety of reasons. If you receive a denial, it is essential that you contact a disability attorney as soon as you can. An attorney can review your reasons for denial and determine the best course of action for your appeal. Many people have to appeal to begin receiving SSI or SSDI benefits, so never give up if you receive a denial.