What Is Social Security Disability? Difference Between SSI & SSDI

Supplemental Security Income, SSI, pays benefits to low-income people who are 65 or older; to adults who are disabled (based on the same definition used by SSDI) or blind; and to children who are disabled and blind. This program exists only for people who have very limited income and assets.

A key difference between SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), is how they are funded. SSDI is funded by the Social Security taxes paid by workers, employers, and self-employed people. SSI, on the other hand, is financed by general revenues that the Treasury Department collects to run the U.S. government.
In order to determine whether you qualify for SSI, Social Security tallies up what it calls your “resources” — money in the bank, personal property, and various other assets. If these exceed $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple, SSI can’t be paid. (Generally, the home in which you live and one car aren’t counted.) Social Security also looks at your income, applying another complex set of rules that counts some kinds of earnings but ignores others. Depending on how much you make, it’s possible to earn modest levels of income and still receive SSI.

In addition to the economic eligibility requirements listed above, you must also meet the non-economic requirements to receive Supplemental Security Income.

SSI Will Only Be Awarded to You If You Are One of The Following:

  • You must be age 65 years or older; Blind — You must be considered “blind” by the Social Security Administration which means you must have “a central visual acuity field of 20/200 or less in your better eye after corrective action or you must have a visual field limitation in your better eye, such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees;” or Disabled — You must be considered disabled by the Social Security Administration which means you must have a mental or physical health condition that causes such severe functional limitations that you are unable to perform substantial work, and the condition is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months.
  • Additionally, you must be a United States citizen or national or be included in a certain category of alien. Therefore it is wise to think of SSI as a more strenuous application, that is not only aimed at either age, blindness or disabled but also the financial status of the applicant; this is somewhat contrary to the SSDI, which looks at how long an applicant worked before becoming disabled and the amount of money that the applicant contributed.
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