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  • Mark J. Keller, Esq

SSI vs. SSDI: Navigating the Differences and Determining Eligibility

Updated: 5 days ago

ssi vs ssdi

The Social Security Administration offers two different disability-based programs; Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

What is SSI?

SSI is designed to help older adults, people who are blind, and persons with disabilities with very limited income and resources. It's a “need-based” program that doesn't require a work history to qualify. In most states, SSI recipients automatically qualify for Medicaid, which provides crucial health coverage alongside financial assistance​​.

What is SSDI?

SSDI caters to individuals with a qualifying work history, meaning people who have worked and paid social security taxes over time. It's intended for those who have contributed to the Social Security system through payroll taxes. After 24 months of disability, SSDI recipients are eligible for Medicare, which offers a different, and sometimes additional, layer of health insurance than SSI​.

Key Differences

The foundational difference lies in their eligibility criteria. SSI is accessible based on age, disability, and financial need without a work history. SSDI requires a certain number of work credits and is determined by one's disability and previous contributions to Social Security via payroll taxes.

Financial Assistance and Health Insurance

Financially, SSI provides a standardized benefit amount that can be supplemented by the state, depending on where the recipient lives. SSDI benefits are calculated based on an individual's lifetime average earnings before their disability, often resulting in higher monthly payments than SSI.  Often, a person can apply for and obtain both SSI and SSDI benefits.  As for health insurance, SSI recipients qualify for Medicaid.  SSDI beneficiaries become eligible for Medicare after a two-year waiting period​​ (starting from when they become disabled) but can still qualify for Medicaid if they do not have sufficient income and assets.

Applying for Benefits

Applying for either program can be done online for SSDI at any age and through a paper application for SSI.  Sometimes, you can arrange a telephone appointment with a representative at the Social Security Administration who will complete the application over the phone. 

Applications for SSI for children under 18 or those over 65 (who do not need to be disabled to received benefits) need to be done either over the phone or in person. The application process involves submitting detailed information about one’s medical condition and financial situation. 

Given the complexities and the impact these programs can have on an individual's life, seeking guidance can be beneficial. The Law Office of Mark J. Keller understands these challenges and is here to assist. If you're attempting to navigate the maze of SSI and SSDI and are confused or overwhelmed, or your application has been denied, don't hesitate to reach out for our support. Contact us at 718-297-1890 or visit to see how we can help you secure the benefits you deserve.

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