According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), over 10 million people in the United States receive disability benefits each year. These benefits are allocated between Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, totaling roughly $11 billion worth of benefit payouts.

If you have been injured or diagnosed with a disabling medical condition and are unable to sufficiently continue working, you may be eligible for SSD or SSI benefits. However, before filing, it’s important to know the difference between these two programs and which one you should apply for.

So, what’s the difference? Should you file for SSD or SSI? Which is most likely to get you the benefits you need?

Differences Between Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income

Although the majority of disability benefits are associated with SSD claims, SSI claims are a significant source of income for many disabled beneficiaries, allowing them to have additional financial support. However, although both programs are controlled by the SSA and provide financial support for disabled persons, the benefits and eligibility requirements for each program are significantly different.

Social Security Disability

SSD is funded through payroll taxes, so you are considered "insured" for SSD only if you have worked for a certain number of years and have made contributions to the Social Security trust fund (better known as FICA Social Security taxes). Other important things to know:

  • You must be between the ages of 18 and 65. After two years of disability, or if you’re over the age of 65, you may be eligible for Medicare instead of SSD.
  • Your spouse and children are eligible to receive partial dependent benefits (as long as you’re over the age of 18), called auxiliary benefits
  • There is a required five-month waiting period after notification of disability. The SSA won't pay you benefits for the first five months after you become disabled and then the amount of your monthly benefits will depend on your previous earnings record

Supplemental Security Income

SSI is called a "means-tested program," meaning it has nothing to do with work history, but strictly with financial need. Since SSI is funded by general taxes, it is available to low-income individuals who have either never worked or who haven't earned enough work credits to qualify for SSD. Other facts to be aware of:

  • SSI income requirements are based on the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) and can change annually during cost of living adjustments. However, a good baseline for financial eligibility is if you have less than $2,000 worth of assets ($3,000 cumulative with a spouse) and a limited income (less than $12,000 a year) you should be eligible for SSI benefits.
  • You may be eligible under the income requirements for SSI to receive Medicaid. Most people who qualify for SSI will also qualify for food stamps.
  • The amount you’ll receive is dependent on where you live, your average cost-of-living, and the amount of your regular, monthly income.
  • Unlike SSD, SSI benefits will begin on the first of the month after you submit your application.

Determining Which Program Is Right for You

Are you finding it increasingly difficult to work due to your cardiac disability? Need help getting social security benefits to survive? Let us help! Filing an SSD or SSI claim can be extremely confusing, especially when you’re not sure which one to pursue. However, with an experienced disability lawyer on your side, you don’t have to worry.

Need more information about your medical rights? Please feel free to download our free report on Social Security Disabilities: Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability. You’ll not only learn more about your rights and claim options, but you’ll also see how our knowledge and experience can help you get the justice you deserve.

Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.


John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer