The Differences between Social Security and Supplemental Security Income

Disability affects people across all ages and walks of life. While many of us may save for retirement or take out insurance policies, no one really expects disability before it happens. Some people become disabled due to a serious illness, such as cancer, or may be injured in an accident. In other cases, a person was born with a certain condition that limits their ability to work, or developed such a condition at a very young age.

Because no two disabilities are exactly alike, the Social Security Administration offers two benefit programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Understanding Social Security

The term “Social Security” often refers to the income that a retired or disabled individual has earned through work credits. The more a person works, the more of these credits they can receive, which means a larger Social Security check once they stop working.

For people with a disability beginning early in life, working was never really an option. For these people, there’s Supplemental Security Income. SSI payments are usually smaller and are intended to fill in the gaps when a person’s work history is empty or sparse. If a person receives SSDI but not enough to meet the federal minimum, SSI will make up the difference.

When you first decide to apply for disability benefits, the differences between the two programs won’t matter so much. Both are issued by Social Security, and both have the same medical requirements. Both offer a healthcare component: SSI comes with immediate Medicaid coverage, and SSDI comes with Medicare coverage after two years.

For either program, a person’s condition must be permanent, and it must be totally disabling. Social Security has its own definitions of these things. To qualify as disabled for purposes of Social Security, a person’s condition must prevent them from earning a living. To be considered permanent, the condition must be expected to last twelve months or longer, or be expected to result in the person’s death.

Social Security doesn’t require that a disability prevent a person from leaving their house, interacting with others, or engaging in hobbies, although they do look at all of a person’s activities to gauge their level of impairment.

Key differences between SSDI and SSI

Aside from the amount of income recipients typically receive, SSDI and SSI differ in one key area. SSI is a need-based program, so recipients can lose their benefits simply by having too much money. Generally, SSDI recipients only lose coverage if their disability ends or becomes manageable.

If you have a disability and want to know more about these programs, let us schedule a free consultation for you. Katherine is an excellent disability attorney, and she’s represented many people in their Social Security cases. Call, email, or text us today!