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What is the difference between SSI and SSDI?

July 23, 2012

Before I started my journey through the disability jungle, I did not know the answer to this question.  I learned about these issues from my disability lawyer and subsequent research on the Social Security website.  This confusion is widespread, even among people who have been on SSDI for some time.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is the program through which anyone who has contributed to Social Security through deductions from their paycheck over the years may obtain income if they become disabled before retirement age.  See the Social Security Disability webpage for information on applying for this program.  This is what most people are referring to when they say they are applying for disability.  The application process can be quite long, with multiple appeals.  Disability payments begin 5 months after the date you became disabled.  For example, my last day of work was at the end of October 2011. That was the date I became disabled.  When Social Security awarded me benefits under SSDI, I was eligible to receive payments starting April 2012, 5 full calendar months after I became disabled.  Once you qualify for SSDI, you become eligible for Medicare after 2 years.  For me, this means April 2014 I go on Medicare.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program to assist low income seniors and disabled adults and children.  Income must be below a certain level and assets must be quite limited.  Things like the house you live in and furniture are not counted.  The determination of income is rather complicated, so if in doubt go ahead and apply.  Once awarded SSI, you become automatically qualified for other benefits such as Medicaid and SNAP (food stamps).  In my case, when I started my disability application, I had no income.  We applied for SSI as well as SSDI.  I had a phone interview with Social Security regarding these applications and at that time it was determined I did not qualify for SSI because I had a few thousand dollars in a 401k (even though I was unable to access that money).

I hope this helps clear things up for my readers.  This is a very confusing subject and it is easy to become overwhelmed, especially when you’re already sick.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Reyna permalink
    July 23, 2012 9:40 am

    Thank you for clarifying the confusion and explaining the differences between SSI & SSDI. This information will help people navigate these services, which other wise can be quite nebulous. I know this information will assist me in helping my dad who can’t work due to multiple shoulder and hand surgeries (he’s 66). He’s been a hard worker all is life, finally retired and is in the process of settling all the disability and SS. Very confusing to me and I find myself easily feeling overwhelmed by it all.

    As always, thank you for your clear, concise and helpful posting.

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