The main difference between Social Security Disability (SSD, or SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the fact that SSD is available to workers who have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits, while SSI disability benefits are available to low-income individuals who have either never worked or who haven't earned enough work credits to qualify for SSD.
Social Security Disability Insurance is funded through payroll taxes. SSDI recipients are considered "insured" because they have worked for a certain number of years and have made contributions to the Social Security trust fund in the form of FICA Social Security taxes. SSDI candidates must be younger than 65 and have earned a certain number of "work credits." (To learn more, see our article on SSDI and work credits.) After receiving SSDI for two years, a disabled person will become eligible for Medicare.
Under SSDI, a disabled person's spouse and children dependents are eligible to receive partial dependent benefits, called auxiliary benefits. However, only adults over the age of 18 can receive the SSDI disability benefit.
There is a five-month waiting period for benefits, meaning that the SSA won't pay you benefits for the first five months after you become disabled. The amount of the monthly benefit after the waiting period is over depends on your earnings record, much like the Social Security retirement benefit.
If you are eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI, or sometimes just SSD) benefits, the amount you receive each month will be based on your average lifetime earnings before your disability began. It is not based on how severe your disability is or how much income you have.
Supplemental Security Income is a program that is strictly need-based, according to income and assets, and is funded by general fund taxes (not from the Social Security trust fund). SSI is called a "means-tested program," meaning it has nothing to do with work history, but strictly with financial need. To meet the SSI income requirements, you must have less than $2,000 in assets (or $3,000 for a couple) and a very limited income.
Disabled people who are eligible under the income requirements for SSI are also able to receive Medicaid in the state they reside in. Most people who qualify for SSI will also qualify for food stamps, and the amount an eligible person will receive is dependent on where they live and the amount of regular, monthly income they have. SSI benefits will begin on the first of the month when you first submit your application.
The benefits are a fixed amount for SSI recipients. The current federal benefit amount is $750 per month for an individual and $1,125 per month for a couple.
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