The Social Security Administration (SSA) exists because some people have medical conditions or injuries that prevent them from supporting themselves. Rather than leave these individuals at the mercy of the markets, the United States has found a way to provide them with some degree of support and independence.
The SSA has the difficult task of collecting taxes from workers and then distributing a portion of those collected taxes as benefits paid to those who have medical conditions that prevent them from working. The SSA often has to make determinations regarding whether a condition is truly disabling enough to warrant benefits.
Sometimes, the reason a person receives a denial for their Social Security benefit application is that they requested the wrong kind of benefits, not that they don’t qualify at all. Learning about the two primary benefits available from the SSA can help you determine if you qualify for either.
What’s the primary difference between SSDI and SSI?
The biggest difference between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is that one is an earned benefit and one is not.
In order to qualify for SSDI, a worker usually has to be below the age of retirement and will have to have made adequate payroll contributions to the SSA via tax withholdings during their career. An individual’s income and contributions will directly influence how much they receive in SSDI benefits.
The same is certainly not true for SSI. SSI benefits are not earned benefits. Instead, SSI helps support those who don’t make enough to cover their costs or who have never been able to work a real job because of a medical condition. Even children born with disabilities who have never worked can potentially qualify for SSI.
Both SSI and SSDI require a significant medical disability for approval
While people who are not eligible for SSDI can qualify for SSI, that statement is only true for those whose benefit denial stems from a lack of payroll withholding. Those who don’t have a severe enough medical condition to qualify for SSDI likely will not qualify for SSI either.
Really looking at the impact of your condition and your previous employment can give you a better idea about whether you might qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits now that you find yourself struggling because of a medical condition.