The Difference Between SSI and SSDI

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are two government benefit programs. They both help people who are unable to earn an income. However, the two programs have some important differences.

The Pekas Smith Disability Attorneys explain the differences between SSI and SSDI. Contact our Arizona disability lawyers to learn more about these programs.

What Are the Differences Between SSI and SSDI?

The primary difference between SSI and SSDI is that SSI is based on need while SSDI is based on work history. Both programs provide benefits when a person is unable to work because of a medical condition or other qualifying disability. However, SSI looks at a person’s resources to support themselves, while SSDI looks at a person’s work history before becoming disabled.

SSI vs. SSDI at a Glance


  • Disability required: Yes
  • Means tested: Yes
  • Possible to qualify based on age 65+: Yes
  • Work history required: No
  • Medicare/Medicaid: Medicaid – no waiting period
  • Waiting period: No
  • Eligibility reviews: Yes
  • Maximum payment (2023): $914/month individual, $1,371 couple


  • Disability required: Yes
  • Means tested: No
  • Possible to qualify based on age 65+: No (May be a qualifying criterion for survivor benefits.)
  • Work history required: Yes
  • Medicare/Medicaid: Medicare – After 24 months
  • Waiting period: Five full months
  • Eligibility reviews: Yes
  • Maximum payment (2023): $3,627/month

Comparing SSI and SSDI

Both SSI and SSDI are government programs that provide cash benefits. The programs help people who are unable to work. While the two programs agree on their basic function – providing help for people who need it – from there, SSI and SSDI have some key differences.

Work history vs. means testing

SSDI works like an insurance program. You pay premiums while you work. The premiums are deducted from your pay. Then, if you become disabled, you may claim the benefits that you have earned. In the event that you become disabled, the primary criterion for getting payments is your work history. SSDI does not depend on your assets.

With SSI, the primary qualification, beyond an inability to earn an income, is your resources. You must be of limited means. It doesn’t matter how long you worked or if you have worked at all. What matters is what resources you have and whether you can earn an income.

Waiting period

Another key difference between SSI and SSDI is the waiting period. SSI doesn’t have a waiting period. You may receive benefits the month after you apply and meet the eligibility criteria.

For most SSDI programs, there is a five-month waiting period. A successful applicant begins to receive their benefits the sixth month after their disability begins. There are some exceptions, for example, if your application is based on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The same is true for Medicare and Medicaid benefits. With SSI, you also receive Medicaid, and there is no waiting period. With SSDI, you also receive Medicare, but there is a 24-month waiting period.


Do both SSI and SSDI conduct eligibility reviews?

Yes. Both SSI and SSDI periodically review beneficiary qualifications for continued benefits. The beneficiary may receive a Continuing Disability Review (CDR), a Redetermination, or both. A review may also occur when you report a change in your situation.

Both programs require you to report changes in your work activity.

Can you receive both SSI and SSDI?

If you qualify, you can receive both SSI and SSDI. Receiving benefits from both programs at the same time is called concurrent benefits. An applicant must qualify for benefits separately under the criteria for each program. If you receive payments through a program, it may reduce or eliminate the benefits you receive from the other program.

Which pays more – SSDI or SSI?

The maximum SSDI payment for 2023 is $3,627 per month. The average SSI payment for 2023 is $914 per month for an individual. SSDI has the higher maximum potential payment. However, not everyone receives the same amount. Which pays more depends on the payments a personal qualifies to receive from each program.

SSI payments are reduced if the applicant has countable income. In addition, a person must have limited countable resources to receive benefits. SSDI payments are calculated based on the applicant’s earnings history. The more you earned before becoming disabled, the higher your payments will be, up to a maximum amount. Usually, for someone working before becoming disabled, SSDI pays more, but it may not always be the case. Remember that you can receive benefits from both programs, so it is likely worthwhile to apply for both programs if you meet the criteria.

Is Social Security retirement the same as SSDI or SSI?

Social Security is the broad term for United States social benefits programs. There are several types of Social Security benefits, including retirement pay, SSDI, SSI, and benefits for survivors of deceased family members. Each program has its own qualifying criteria and payment structures. They all fall under the same umbrella of U.S. Social Security programs, but retirement benefits are not the same as SSDI or SSI.

Talk to a Disability Lawyer

Are you looking into SSDI or SSI benefits? Are you wondering what the differences are, what you may qualify for, and what to consider as you move forward? You can talk to a lawyer at Pekas Smith Disability Attorneys. Get information that is specific to your situation and see how a lawyer can help you get the benefits you may deserve. Contact us today.

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