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Difference between Social Security Disability (SSD) and SSI Disability

In these tough economic times, many people wonder about the different financial assistance they can get from federal and state governments. The Social Security Administration in the United States offers two different types of disability benefits, namely Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (known as SSD, SSDI or DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for the disabled. People often find it a bit confusing to understand the differences between Social Security Disability Benefits and SSI for the disabled. This article explains both these terms and the differences between them.

Social Security Disability Benefits (SSD, SSDI or DIB)

This is a program managed by the Social Security Administration (federal government) and paid for by the Social Security Trust Fund which is funded by payroll taxes paid on employee wages by the employee and the employer. It is available to those people who have a medical impairment (physical or mental) that keeps them from working AND who are "insured." For people to be "insured" they must have paid Social Security taxes on enough of their wages both throughout their life and recently (as determined by their age). The benefit amount available to each person is dependent on their wages that have been taxed by Social Security and calculated using other variables.

IThe exact amount of monthly benefits is figured by Social Security using complicated formulas and is best determined by calling the Social Security Administration. People above full-retirement age (currently the age of 66) are not eligible to get SSD benefits and those people should refer to their Social Security retirement benefits or SSI for the aged or disabled.

IA disabled individual may also be eligible for SSD benefits based on another person's wage record (the “wage earner”). There are specific categories of people who can claim benefits on another person's wage record such as a spouse, divorced spouse, widow, widower, children age 18 or older who were disabled before the age of 22, and others. There are many restrictions on claiming these benefits which often include important time requirements. If you think you may be eligible you should look into these options as soon as possible.

Supplemental Security Income for the Disabled (SSI)

This is a program which was created to help those people who are disabled, aged or blind and who do not have enough money or resources to meet their basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. SSI is paid for by general Treasury Funds not by the Social Security Trust Fund. The amount an individual can receive is based on financial need (up to a maximum benefit amount set each year), it is not based on the individual's past earnings and Social Security payroll taxes. The maximum monthly benefit amount is set by the federal government each year. In addition, some states pay an additional monthly amount, also based on need. The SSI program is meant for the poorest of individuals and in addition to being disabled the individual must meet the financial eligibility rules such a: the individual's total assets should be lower than $2,000 if singe, if married, the couple's assets should be lower than $3000; also the individual/couple should have limited income. There are complicated formulas for determining income as some items you receive from others, such as a free place to live, might be counted as income. Likewise, there are specific items that do not count in the asset calculation (such as a house you own and live in). You should consult with the Social Security Administration to determine whether your circumstances meet the income/asset guidelines for this program.

It is possible to receive both SSD and SSI as long as the individual's SSD income is under the income guidelines.

Similarities between these two programs:

  • Individuals can receive benefits on a monthly basis
  • The medical definition and determination of disability is the same
  • The SSA administers both programs

Differences between these two programs:

  • SSD is based on the individual's (or wage earner's) Social Security taxed wages, while SSI is need based
  • SSD is supported by payroll taxes, while SSI is supported by general taxes
  • SSI recipients can also get medical assistance (Medicaid) immediately (in most states) but SSD recipients must wait twenty-four months after entitlement to disability benefits before receiving medical assistance (Medicare)
  • Disabled individuals above full retirement age (currently 66) are not eligible for SSD (they should look at obtaining Social Security retirement) but disabled individuals of any age may qualify for SSI

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