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Social Security Disability Insurance Compared To Supplemental Security Income


Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is similar to a disability insurance policy. You've paid the premium through payroll deduction. Since you paid for it, you're entitled to the benefit if there's a covered loss. Instead of the money coming from a private insurance policy, the "company" is Social Security. SSDI is also known as RSDI, Title XVI or Title II.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a welfare program for people with limited income and assets. The idea behind SSI is to provide a minimum income to pay for basic food, clothing and shelter for certain people -- including people with a disability.

More specifically, the differences between the programs are:



  • Requires work history.
  • The amount of required work depends on age.
  • Your income and assets don't matter

  • No work history needed.
  • Based on financial need. You must have limited assets and income

Disability definition and determination

Same for both programs. Doesn't cover partial disability

Same for both programs. Doesn't cover partial disability


Insured worker, spouses, widows, children, parents

Benefits only qualified applicant

Amount of payment

  • Based on earnings history.
  • Same amount all over the country.
  • Living arrangements do not affect amount of payment.
  • Based on need.
  • Standard federal benefit rate, plus some states add a supplement. -Living arrangements affect amount of payment.

Waiting period for 1st payment

5 months


Is it possible to receive a payment when apply?

No payments until end of waiting period

Yes -- known as Presumptive Disability.

Payment is made if your condition is obviously disabling and you appear to meet the income and asset limits

Retroactive payments

Can receive payments for up to 12 months prior to the Filing Date

No payments before Filing Date

Does insurance come with?

Eligible for Medicare 24 months after payments begin or at retirement age, whichever is earlier


In some states:

  • The name of the program varies (for example, called Medi-Cal in California)
  • A separate application for Medicaid may be required

Do food stamps come with?


Generally yes, depending on the state in which you live

How long do payments last?

As long as the disability continues, possibly for life

As long as the disability continues, possibly for life

Does it matter if I have other earnings?


Yes. For example, if you receive SSDI, the amount you receive from SSDI will be deducted from potential SSI payment. Income from savings, dividends, annuities, rents etc is also deducted.

What if I feel well enough to go back to work?

Trial work program permits work while benefits continue

Trial work program. Features of the program are different from SSDI

Month to which Benefits relate

Benefits are paid one month behind

Benefits are for month in which received

When checks are issued

Checks are issued through out the month

All checks are issued on the 1st of the month


Only Workers Compensation or other Federal or state disability payments may affect payment level

Any income whether earned or unearned

Date Last Insured

Sets date after you stop working by which claim must be filed

Doesn't apply to SSI

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