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SSI vs. SSDI: Benefits and Differences

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers several benefit programs to provide additional income to senior citizens or those with disabilities, but each program has distinct eligibility requirements, regulations, and rewards. Two of the most commonly utilized are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). But what exactly is the difference? Learn about SSI vs. SSDI from our Social Security Disability lawyers.

Picture of an elderly person holding money after receiving income benefits from learning about SSI vs. SSDI.

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SSI vs. SSDI: Similarities

Let’s start with what these two programs have in common. Both are assistance programs set up by the federal government and organized by the Social Security Administration (SSA), and both provide financial assistance to individuals who may be unable to work full-time or part-time hours. 

Plus, both can be applied for through the Social Security Administration website — that’s about where the similarities end, though. Let’s take a look at how the two stack up in the battle of SSI vs. SSDI.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, provides income assistance to low-income citizens who are either blind, disabled, or over the age of 65. These SSI payments are funded with money from tax revenues and designed specifically to help those with limited resources. 


Other than those basic requirements, you most likely qualify for SSI if:

  • You own less than $2,000 in financial assets, excluding some primary assets such as primary residence and vehicle.
  • Your income is $1,767 monthly or less. 
  • You have not been out of the United States for 30 or more consecutive days
  • You have limited resources.


When it comes to health insurance, SSI benefits are often accompanied by access to Medicaid. In North Carolina, for instance, those who receive SSI are automatically enrolled in Medicaid. 

Spouses and Other Household Members

In some cases, changes in your relationship status and household can lead to changes in your SSI benefits. 

If you get married, or a relative moves into your home and changes your household income, 

the amount of assistance you receive will change. 

If your spouse is also receiving SSI aid, then you will be eligible for couples benefits rather than individual benefits — couples benefits are typically lower than the combined amount of two individual SSI benefits, though. 


The amount of aid received depends on income, and can change over the course of time as your circumstances change. The average monthly benefit, however, is around $600 a month for individuals, with the maximum benefit being $841.

For married couples, the maximum monthly benefit is around $1,260.

Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)

Whereas SSI is typically based on average income and ability to work, Social Security Disability Income, or SSDI, is an “insurance” payment, based on disability and work history.  

The payments come from workers’ contributions to a Social Security trust fund, and in turn, SSDI acts as a kind of insurance for workers who are blind or disabled and have difficulty working.


The amount you are eligible for when it comes to SSDI depends on your work history or earnings, or those of your immediate family. As you work, you earn “credits” through paying your social security taxes. You can earn up to four credits per year. 

You must have earned those credits — meaning you have worked long enough and made the allotted amount of money — recently enough to qualify. Typically, individuals need 40 credits total, and 20 of those need to have been earned in the past 10 years. 

As long as you have a qualifying work history and credits, you may be eligible for SSDI. 

On top of the work history, you need to:

  • Have a disability or medical condition that makes it impossible to work and is expected to last at least one year 
  • Be younger than the full retirement age


This is where SSI vs. SSDI seems to tip in the favor of SSI: those who benefit from SSDI are not automatically enrolled in Medicaid, as they are with SSI.

 They are, however, automatically qualified, but there is a 24-month waiting period from the start of their benefits before they are eligible to enroll. 

The only exception for that waiting period is those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), who are exempt from it.

Spouses and Other Household Members

If you don’t have a work history or at least enough of one, you may still be able to qualify for SSDI based on some of the relationships in your life. For instance, if:

  • You're a widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse between ages 50 and 60, and your disability began within seven years of the spouse's death. 
  • Your disability began before the age of 22, in which case your eligibility may depend on your parents' credits.


The average monthly benefit received by those on SSDI is around $1,223. That can go up, though, based on monthly income. The highest monthly payment received can be upwards of $3,000. 

Can I Receive SSI and SSDI Benefits at the Same Time?

It’s not always a matter of SSI vs. SSDI, though. If you qualify for both, you can receive both. For instance, if you have limited income and resources, and a qualifying work history, then you may be a candidate for combined benefits. 

Final Word: SSI vs. SSDI

Applying for and getting approved for either SSI vs. SSDI can be a lengthy and difficult process, thanks to complicated requirements and confusing guidelines. In fact, most Social Security disability claims are denied the first time around. 

When you’re in need of those benefits, time is of the essence; that’s why being backed by a team of attorneys with extensive experience in the claims process of both programs can make all the difference.

If you’re looking for help with your SSI vs. SSDI benefits in North Carolina, schedule your free 30-minute initial consultation with Van Camp, Meacham & Newman today. 

Disclaimer: The information seen on this website, including the article above, is not legal advice or legal counsel. If you wish to speak to a lawyer who serves RaleighFayettevillePinehurstSanford, and beyond, contact our North Carolina attorneys directly using our online form or by calling  910-295-2525.

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