The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability programs are the largest of several Federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities. There is often confusion about which of these programs is most appropriate for an individual. Let's take a look at the basics about both programs.
While these two programs are different in many ways, both are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and only individuals who have a disability and meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under either program.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program financed with Social Security taxes paid by workers, employers and self-employed persons. In order to be eligible for a Social Security benefit, the worker must earn sufficient credits based on taxable work. Disability benefits are payable to disabled workers, disabled widow(er)'s or adults disabled since childhood, who are otherwise eligible. Auxiliary benefits may be payable to a worker's dependents, as well. The monthly disability benefit payment is based on the Social Security earnings record of the insured worker on whose Social Security number the disability claim is filed.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program financed through general tax revenues. SSI disability benefits are payable to adults or children who are disabled or blind, who have limited income and resources, who meet the living arrangement requirements, and are otherwise eligible. The monthly payment varies up to the maximum federal benefit rate which is standardized in all States, but not everyone gets the same amount because it may be supplemented by the State or decreased by other countable income and resources.
When you apply for either program, the Social Security Administration collects medical and other information from you and makes a decision about whether or not you meet Social Security's definition of disability.
Social Security's definition of disability: