Learn the Difference Between Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income

Two very important public benefit programs are available that people often confuse for one another. Here’s a primer on the features of and differences between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

The program is financed with Social Security taxes paid by workers, employers, and self employed persons.

  • The worker will get Medicare coverage automatically after receiving disability benefits for two years.
  • To be eligible for a Social Security benefit, the worker must earn sufficient credits based on taxable work to be “insured” for Social Security purposes.
  • Disability benefits are payable to:
    • blind or disabled workers
    • their children
    • widow(er)s
    • adults disabled since childhood
  • The amount of the monthly disability benefit is based on the Social Security earnings record of the insured worker.

See Understanding the Benefits for a complete explanation SSDI.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

This program is financed through general revenues from taxes, meaning benefits are not based on your prior work history.

  • In most states, beneficiaries will automatically be eligible for Medicaid.
  • SSI benefits are payable to:
    • individuals age 65 or older
    • adults who are disabled or blind
    • children who are disabled or blind
  • Eligibility requirements:
    • have limited income and resources
    • meet the living arrangement requirements
    • a U.S. citizen or national, or in one of certain categories of aliens
  • The monthly payment varies up to the maximum federal benefit rate, which may be supplemented by the state.

See Understanding Supplemental Security Income for a complete explanation of SSI.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)


Answers to other related Social Security Disability Topics.

Apply for Disability

  1. How do I apply for disability benefits?
  2. What should I do if I think I might be eligible for benefits?
  3. What happens after I apply for disability benefits online?
  4. Do I qualify for benefits if I am now in, or the surviving spouse of, a civil union or other legal same-sex relationship?
  5. Do I qualify for benefits if I live in a place that prohibits or does not recognize same-sex marriages or other legal same-sex relationships?

Eligibility for Disability

  1. What should I do if I think I might be eligible for benefits?
  2. Can I receive Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits?
  3. What is the difference between Social Security disability and SSI disability?
  4. When will Social Security begin paying benefits to same-sex married couples and surviving spouses?
  5. Can I receive benefits on my deceased ex-spouse’s record?
  6. More…

Info – Disability

  1. How can I change my address?
  2. Do I have to pay income taxes on the benefits I receive?
  3. How do I check the status of my application?
  4. Will my Social Security disability benefits change when I reach full retirement age? 
  5. Do I automatically receive Medicare benefits if I’m eligible for disability benefits?
  6. More…

Applying While Receiving Income

  1. Can I work and apply for Social Security disability benefits?
  2. How do workers’ compensation or public disability benefit payments affect my Social Security disability payments?
  3. I have a private disability insurance, will it reduce my Social Security disability benefit?

Working While Disabled

  1. Can I work without losing my Social Security disability benefits?
  2. What is the Ticket to Work Program?
  3. If I become eligible for disability can I get vocational rehabilitation?

For more information…

Official Social Security Website