Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) vs. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Feb 25, 2022

Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income

There are two Social Security Programs that help people when they cannot work: Social Security Disability Insurance, called SSDI, and Supplemental Security Income, called SSI. The overall idea of both programs is to provide income when you cannot earn a paycheck. After that, the two programs are very different. Let’s learn more about both programs.

What SSDI and SSI Have in Common

Both programs require that you be disabled and unable to work. That said, the social security administration has a strict definition about what qualifies as disabled. You can read more about it on our earlier blog, “How Does the Social Security Administration Define Disability”. Also, both programs require that disability to last at least 12 months. Both also send you a monthly payment, but the amount of those payments depends on which program you are in. Lastly, with both programs you are eligible for government health insurance coverage. That is about all SSDI and SSI have in common.

Differences in SSDI and SSI

Requirements to Receive Benefits

To receive SSI you just need to show you are disabled under the Social Security Administration’s definition. To receive SSDI you must fit the definition for disabled and you must have enough work credits. Work credits are credits you earned by working before you became disabled. It is the idea that you paid into the program enough that you should get paid by the program if you become disabled. For more information about work credits, check out our earlier blog, “What are “work credits” in Social Security Disability Cases?”

Asset and Income Limits

For SSDI, you can have any amount of assets and have any amount of nonwork income. For SSI, you are limited on the amount of assets you can have and the amount of nonwork income you can receive. The income limit for 2022 is $841 per month and the asset limit is roughly $2,000. As you can see, these are tough limits.

Monthly Payment Amount

For SSDI the amount you receive is based on your average lifetime earnings. The formula for the amount you would receive is complicated, but you can roughly estimate it as 32% of your average lifetime earnings. For SSI you receive an amount based on the cost-of-living national average. For 2022 the amount for an individual is $841 per month. That amount is recalculated every year and is shown in the SSA’s website here.

Which Program is Better?

If you qualify for SSDI, it is usually the better program because it usually pays out more per month and because it has no limits on assets and nonwork income. If you do not qualify for SSDI, then you should still apply for SSI because something is better than nothing.


At Pedersen Law Office, LLC we understand how confusing applying for Social Security Disability can be; that is why we offer free consults. We will discuss your application and disability and help you through the entire process. Our law office serves the communities of Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, Oshkosh, Green Bay and their surrounding areas.

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