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What is the Difference Between SSI and SSDI?

July 10, 2019
Tuite Law

The federal government has two programs that provide benefits to disabled people: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You might qualify for both, and the application process is the same. However, you should understand the differences between them.

Qualifying for SSDI

SSDI is the main disability program in the U.S. and is paid by payroll taxes. To qualify, the worker must also have a qualifying disability that lasts at least a year or will result in the applicant’s death. The worker also needs to have sufficient work credits.

Generally, a worker earns one work credit for every $1,360 in income, up to a maximum of 4 credits in a year. So if you earn $40,000, you still only earn 4 work credits for that year. Each year, the “price” of a work credit goes up, so check each year how many credits you have earned. 

The number of credits required to qualify for benefits will depend on the worker’s age, but most workers need at least 40 work credits, which roughly translates into 10 years of work. Your work history also needs to be recent. For example, if you are 31 or older when you become disabled, you must have earned 20 work credits within the past 10 years. If you are a young worker, you might qualify even if you do not have 40 credits, so you should meet with an attorney to review your work history.

Qualifying for SSI

Monetary damagesSupplemental Security Income is a need-based program. To qualify, you must have a limited income and few assets (usually $2,000 or less for an individual or $3,000 for a couple). If you are over these limits, you will not qualify for SSI benefits.

SSI does not depend on an applicant’s work history, so some people might qualify for SSI but not SSDI benefits. It is also possible to qualify for SSDI but have too much income or too many assets to qualify for SSI.


The amount of any SSDI benefit will depend on a worker’s lifetime earnings and not on how disabled the applicant is. In 2019, the average SSDI benefit was $1,235 a month, but some workers can qualify for up to $2,860 a month in benefits.

The SSDI program also pays out benefits for a disabled person’s spouse and dependent children. After two years, an SSDI beneficiary should also become eligible for Medicare, which is a federal health insurance program.

Social Security formThe maximum SSI benefit in 2019 is $771 for an individual and $1,157 for a couple. Because SSI beneficiaries are low income, they typically qualify for a host of other government benefits programs, such as Medicaid and food stamps.

Need Help? Contact Our Rockford Social Security Disability Attorneys Today

A sudden disability can leave a worker under financial stress. Few people have the ability to pay years of bills without any income coming in. Meet with a Rockford Social Security disability attorney to review your options.

At Tuite Law, we have helped many people just like you get the federal benefits you deserve. For more information, please contact us today.

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