SSD and SSI are two very different programs. They have different eligibility requirements and rely on different systems. The only real similarity these programs share is the fact that they provide financial assistance to individuals that cannot work due to a physical or mental disability.

If you have suffered a disability, it’s important to understand what the differences are between SSDI and SSI, and which one you should apply for.

What Is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance, more commonly referred to as SSDI, is a program that allows individuals under the age of 65 to claim disability benefits when they are unable to work. It is run by the Social Security Administration (SSA), and this federal agency determines which individuals are eligible to receive these benefits.

SSDI benefits are available to individuals who have suffered a total disability, meaning they cannot work for one year or more or have a disabling condition that is expected to result in death. To be eligible for SSDI benefits, individuals must also have a certain number of work credits and must have earned an income through qualifying employment.

Individuals who qualify for SSDI will receive them until they are able to return to work or until they reach retirement age. After reaching the age of retirement, SSDI benefits convert to standard Social Security retirement benefits.

What Is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is also offered by the SSA. SSI is different from SSDI because it provides benefits to children and adults who have suffered a disability and do not have the necessary resources to pay for their expenses. SSI is also available to individuals who are over the age of 65 that also have a lack of resources, even if they have not suffered a disability.

Unlike SSDI, there is no work history requirement to qualify for SSI benefits. However, a claimant cannot have too much income or assets and still qualify for SSI.

What Is the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?

Although there are many differences between SSDI and SSI, there are three that are considered the biggest.

The first difference is that SSI is means-tested. Claimants must have little income and few resources in order to qualify.

SSDI on the other hand, is more like a paid insurance program. If you work, a portion of your income is likely taken off your paycheck and redirected to the Social Security system. The amount that you have paid into the system helps build up your work credits, which you need a certain number of when you apply for SSDI. Regardless of the income you earn or your current assets, if you have paid into the Social Security system for the past 10 years, you are eligible to receive SSDI if you have a qualifying disability.

The second but very large difference between SSI and SSDI is that individuals receiving SSI benefits can receive Medicaid immediately after their application for SSI has been approved. Medicaid is a state and federal healthcare system that allows beneficiaries to receive very comprehensive coverage for nearly any medical expense they incur.

Individuals receiving SSDI benefits on the other hand, are only eligible for Medicare benefits two years after they qualify for SSDI benefits. Medicare is solely a federal program and does not usually provide the amount of coverage that Medicaid does. People who receive Medicare typically purchase private insurance policies known as “Medigap” policies that help to provide the coverage Medicare does not.

Lastly, the financial benefits received through SSI and SSDI are very different. The SSA regularly determines the amount that SSI beneficiaries can receive. When individuals receive sources of income other than SSI, the amount of benefits they receive is also reduced. SSDI benefits however, are based on the earnings of the individual that is applying for them.

Although these are certainly not the only differences between SSI and SSDI, it’s these differences that will largely determine which one you should apply for if you need financial assistance.

Can You Get SSI and SSDI at the Same Time?

Although most people will apply for only SSI or SSDI, there are circumstances in which you may be eligible for both programs. When a person receives both, they are called “concurrent benefits.” It’s important to understand that if you are approved for SSDI and SSI, you will likely receive lower SSDI payments than you would if you did not receive SSI as well.

There are other factors that can also cause you to receive lower SSDI payments. You may not have worked in the past 10 years, or you may have worked very little during that period of time. You may have also become disabled at a young age, limiting the amount of work history you were able to build up, or you may have earned relatively low wages during your employment history. When your SSDI payment is below a certain threshold, you could then also qualify for SSI.

If you have been approved for SSDI, but you are also within the mandatory five-month waiting period, you may also apply for SSI. During the waiting period, you won’t receive SSDI benefits. SSI can help supplement that and still provide for your daily expenses while you wait to receive your SSDI payments. This is also beneficial to individuals who are disabled, as they will be eligible for Medicaid right away.

Talk to a Kentucky Disability Lawyer Now

Determining whether you should apply for SSI or SSDI is difficult. However, that’s just the first step of the process. If you are disabled and cannot work, you need to speak to a Kentucky disability attorney for help.

At Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer, we have extensive experience with these applications, and we want to put that experience to work for you. We can advise on which program is right for you, assist with your application and, if you are denied, continue on with your appeal.

Contact us today or contact us online to schedule your free consultation and to learn more about how we can help you through this complex process.