SSDI and SSI Explained

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SSDI and SSI Explained

The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers two programs that offer monetary benefits to people who are disabled. The eligibility requirements for these two types of benefits are very different, as are the amount of benefits available and how that number is calculated. 

Here’s what you need to know about SSDI and SSI benefits. 

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI (sometimes short-handed as SSD) is a program that provides benefits to disabled workers based on their work history and contributions to the Social Security system. To be eligible for SSDI benefits, you must have accumulated a certain number of “work credits” across your career. You also must have accumulated a certain number of recent work credits. 

What are Work Credits and How Many Do You Need? 

You can earn up to four work credits in a year, depending on your earnings. Each year, the SSA updates the amount of earnings you need to equal one work credit.

For example, in 2024 it takes $6,920 in earnings to accrue four work credits. But, you may earn that money across the entire year, in a single month, or anywhere in between. So, it’s more accurate to say that you must have worked in each of 10 years and to have met the earnings threshold for four credits in each.

For SSDI, there’s a second requirement–20 work credits in the 10 years leading up to the disability. This is an important distinction. For Social Security retirement benefits, it doesn’t matter when you earned your credits. Once you have 40 credits, you are eligible for retirement benefits when you are eligible based on your age. But, you can have 40 or more total work credits and still be ineligible for SSDI if you don’t have enough recent work credits. 

The work credit requirements are lower for younger workers

How Much Can You Receive in SSDI Benefits?

If you qualify for SSDI benefits, the amount will be the same as you would have received at full retirement age. That number varies for different people since it’s based on your Social Security earnings. In 2024, the maximum benefit available is $3,822/month. However, the average SSDI benefit is much lower.

How Long Does it Take to Get SSD Benefits?

The average time to receive a determination on your initial SSDI application is three to six months. If you have to work your way through the appeals process, it can take two years or more from your initial application. There is also a waiting period for SSDI–you won’t receive benefits for the first five months after you become disabled. 

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is a need-based program that provides cash assistance to very low-income people who are elderly or disabled. Unlike SSDI, SSI eligibility does not depend on work history. Benefits are paid from a separate fund and are available to anyone who meets the qualifications regardless of work credits. 

Who Can Get SSI? 

It’s important to note, though, that not everything you own is counted as a resource. For example, your home and the land it sits on are not counted as a resource for eligibility purposes. You should also know that income limits are higher in some states. An experienced disability benefits advocate can help you determine whether you are eligible for SSI, and what you may be able to do to become eligible. 

How Much Can You Receive in SSI Benefits? 

SSI benefit levels are lower than SSDI benefits. The maximum monthly benefit for a single person is $943/month. For a couple, the limit is $1,415/month. Some states pay a supplement to SSI recipients that increases the total benefit amount. 

Not everyone who receives SSI benefits is eligible for the maximum amount. Your SSI benefits are reduced by other income you receive and may be reduced if you are living with someone else and not paying your share of expenses. Your benefits may even change from month to month if your income varies or your living arrangements change. 

How Long Does it Take to Get SSI? 

Unlike SSDI, the SSI program has no waiting period. You’ll begin receiving benefits the month after you apply or become disabled. How long it takes to get approved for benefits depends on a variety of factors. If you fall under the SSA’s criteria for presumptive disability, you may begin receiving benefits while waiting for a determination. 

Can You Receive Both SSDI and SSI?

About one million Americans receive benefits from SSDI and SSI at the same time. However, SSI benefits are decreased based on the amount of SSDI received. So, only SSDI recipients with low monthly benefits will continue to receive SSI benefits when they start receiving SSDI. 

Get the Help You Need with SSDI and SSI 

The best way to improve your chances of receiving benefits on the first try, or of winning an appeal, is to make sure that you have assembled the right documentation. At Disability Help Group, our seasoned advocates have a solid understanding of what the SSA is looking for, how to determine financial eligibility, and how the two programs work together. 

To learn more about how we can help you put together the strongest possible application or appeal, call us today at  (800) 800-3332, or fill out our contact form.

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