SSDI vs. SSI: Which Benefit Program Can I Qualify For?

By Disability Group

Pursuing Social Security benefits can sometimes seem overwhelming and a little confusing, especially with all of the abbreviations and jargon used by the Social Security website, representatives and materials. Two important acronyms that often trip people up are: “SSDI” and “SSI.” These abbreviations represent the two programs that Social Security has for disabled Americans, and you must qualify for one or the other to be eligible for disability benefits:

SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance)

Social Security Disability is the Social Security program that awards Americans who have worked for a certain length of time and then become disabled. Because working pays directly into this benefit, awards are based on work credits and income earned. In other words, the longer you work and the more you make, the larger your award will be if you receive SSDI.  However, work credits expire 5 years after a claimant stops working, so if you become disabled in that time it is important to seek medical treatment as well as benefits right away to receive your full disability.

SSI (Supplemental Security Income)

Supplemental Security Income is a program for disabled Americans who have very little income and resources. Whether or not you are eligible for SSI has nothing to do with how much work you have or have not done. To receive these benefits you must be a US Citizen who is disabled and within the economic requirements. Applicant’s who are awarded SSI may be eligible for other need based programs such as Food Stamps or Medicaid. Because SSI is not related to work history, children with disabilities are also eligible for these benefits.


Program SSI SSD
Applications (SSA forms) SSA-8001 (SSI Application)



 SSA-3368 (Adult Disability Report)

SSA-16 (Disability Insurance Benefits Application)


 SSA-3368 (Adult Disability Report)

Requirements Monthly Income:

No more than…

$674 for a single person or

$1,011 for a married couple



No more than…

$2,000 for a single person or

$3,000 for a married couple

Work Credits


Generally you have to have worked 5 out of the last 10 years

Payments $600- $900 monthly

(states may vary)


(depends on past work income)

Insurance Medicaid- received immediately Medicare- received 2 years after award