SSD & SSI
What's the difference between SSDI and SSI?
Let’s begin with some basics. Social Security is a government program that provides monthly cash benefits and medical coverage to Americans. Most of the people who get these benefits are retirees. But another group of beneficiaries is made up of people who cannot work because of a disability.
Social Security administers two programs for the disabled. One is Social Security Disability Insurance, which we call “SSD” around our office. (You might here it called “SSDI” by other people, but in our office we find that SSD is just easier.) The other program is Supplemental Security Income, which we refer to as “SSI.” There are important differences and similarities between SSD and SSI, and we need to get them straight early on.
In 1956, the government agreed to provide monthly payments to injured or ill workers who had put money into the system through the payroll or FICA tax. This development left us with SSD. Basically, SSD is designed to protect workers who were on their way to a normal retirement at age 65, but who got stopped short along the way by a disability. SSD is part of Title 2 of the Social Security Act.
Social Security was given administrative control of a program called Supplemental Security Income in 1972. The program is structured to protect the very poor and needy, including those who have never been able to work. SSI is available for both the elderly and for the disabled. SSI is part of Title 16 of the Social Security Act.
So, here is the main difference between SSD and SSI. SSD is for disabled Americans who have worked most of their adult lives but can no longer work. SSI is for disabled Americans who do not have a long work history and who are poor enough to qualify. You could be eligible for both.
The other main difference between SSD and SSI is what they offer as benefits. Like retirement, SSD returns some of your payroll taxes to you in the form of monthly cash benefits. This varies from person to person – the more you paid into the system, the more you will get back. SSI, on the other hand, gives you a set amount of money based on how poor you are. In fact, SSI has a limit of how much money or assets you can own. As for health coverage, SSD brings you Medicare, which is accepted by all hospitals and most doctors, while SSI makes you eligible for Medicaid, which offers comprehensive hospital care but which is rarely accepted by non-hospital physicians since the payment rate to physicians is so low.
It should be clear by this point that SSD is a more comprehensive program. The monthly benefits from SSD are almost always more than from SSI. As a result, we always try first to see if our clients are eligible for SSD. For some reason the government does not always do a good job. They often like to assume that a person is only eligible for SSI because this will save the Social Security trust fund. Unlike SSD, SSI does not come out of the Social Security trust fund to which we all contribute. SSI funds come from the general tax reserves. Therefore, it often takes some hard work and persistence to prove that an applicant is qualified for SSD.