What’s The Difference Between SSI and SSDI?

Social Security has two different disability programs. They are called SSI and SSDI. They sound the same. And they look the same. And you apply for them the same way. But they are different. Social Security has done this deliberately to confuse you.

It gets better….

Social Security also has two different health insurance programs. They are called Medicare and Medicaid. They sound the same. And they are both given out to people on disability. But they are different. See, they thought you were not already confused enough, so they are piling it on.

Put this all together and you get…

People on SSI get Medicaid

People on SSDI get Medicare

People on both SSI & SSDI get both Medicaid & Medicare

What do these words mean?

SSDI stands for Social Security Disability Insurance.

SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income.

Who qualifies?

SSDI – For People Who Worked. SSDI is for people who have worked and paid Social Security tax. Not everyone who has worked qualifies. It depends how old you are, how much you worked, and how recently you worked.

SSI – For People Who Are Poor. SSI is for people who don’t qualify for SSDI or for people’s who get a very low SSDI check. To get on SSI you must be low income and low assets. If you are married, they will also consider your spouse’s income and assets. How poor is poor? The rules are complicated, but as a general rule, most people who qualify for food stamps also qualify for SSI.

How are SSI and SSDI different?

The medical decision is exactly the same. You apply the same way. You go to the same doctors. They make the decision about your disability exactly the same way.

The financial policies are completely different. For SSI, your financial information and financial decisions will be very important. For SSDI, your finances do not matter.

Why do I need to know this? Does it matter?

Yes! It is very important because….

If you get SSDI, you need to know that you are not required to follow all the SSI financial regulations, so you don’t make yourself crazy for no reason. If you have kids, you also need to know that you can probably get extra benefits for your kids, and possibly for your spouse. This does not happen automatically. You must sign up your kids to get the extra money.

If you get SSI, you need to know the SSI financial regs… otherwise your check could be lower and you won’t know why! Some people get lower checks for ten or twenty years and never even realize it. Also, you might break some regs without realizing it. You certainly don’t want that. If you are still applying, then the way you are living now may affect your backpay check.

What should I apply for?

If you have not yet applied, you can just apply for both. Social Security will tell you what you are eligible for.  Or you can read this article to find out more: How Do I Know if I am Eligible for SSI or SSDI?

If you have already applied, and do not know what you are applying for, you can call your lawyer or call Social Security and ask.

Many people make a mistake and do not apply for SSI. They only apply for SSDI because they think they can’t get both. Tip: If you are poor right now, or you might become poor soon, always apply for both SSDI and SSI. It may mean more backpay.

Applying for SSI is very easy. When you first apply for disability, you will fill out your initial application. Just make sure to check the box that you intend to apply for SSI (Supplemental Security Income). That is it! Social Security will get in touch with you at some point to ask you some financial questions. If you apply in person they will probably ask you the financial questions right then.

 What am I on?

If you are already on disability and you do not know what kind of check you are getting, you are not alone. You may be able to figure it out here. If your monthly check is less than maximum SSI in your state, take a look here: How Come My Check is So Low?

55 thoughts on “What’s The Difference Between SSI and SSDI?”

  1. I am on SSDI and have been about 9 years. Can I apply for SSI now or will it mess up my SSDI? I get about 1000 a month in SSDI and I am on Medicaid and Medicare and I get a very small amount if food stamps. I’m also on an assistance program thru Medicaid that helps me stay in my own home as long as possible. I sure don’t want to interfere with that program either. But I’m having a very difficult time living on my SSDI check alone. Thank you.


  2. I recently opened a bank account after i was given a bench decision at my hearing but the bank called and said social security responed back and said that account was not a established account and couldnt be used what does that mean


    1. Sorry I don’t know the answer to this one.

      Maybe the account was still in the process of being set up when Social Security tried to put in a test deposit.

      If you are certain the account is working properly now, perhaps you could contact your local Social Security office and ask them to try again.


    2. If all else fails, you can always ask Social Security to put the money on a card for you. You can use it like a regular credit card.

      Then once your bank account is sorted out, you can switch it to a bank account deposit any time.


  3. I got a fully favorable decision from the judge on September 25 2017 my ssa account was reading my case was at the local office last Tuesday October 10th this is what its saying does anyone knows what it means


    Social Security Office:

    I-M-28 1ST FL SW BLDG
    BALTIMORE, MD 21241-0001

    Current Status
    Step 2 of 3

    Appeal Under Review

    A medical decision has been made and we are working to process your decision. A Social Security Representative may contact you or your appointed representative directly if we need any additional documents or information.



  4. I will soon be receiving a call from Social Security. I am applying for benefits for my son who has profound autism and will never be able to work or live independently.

    I am not sure what questions they will ask. After much research, I “think” it will be form 3368.

    Can anybody confirm that or offer any other suggestions.

    Thanks so much!



          1. Just wanted to say thank you so much for your help. I appreciate the advice; especially about housing. I had head about it, but your information is much more specific.



    1. If this is your first contact, I think they will most likely go over all the basic forms. It is mostly basic questions – like his diagnosis, names of his doctors, contact info for all his doctors, employment history, etc. If you’d like to see all the questions on the basic forms, they are here. I don’t think you really need to read them these all though 🙂 https://howtogeton.wordpress.com/2017/03/12/how-to-answer-questions-on-the-disability-application/

      The other thing they may do is an SSI interview. The most important thing many parents do not realize going into an SSI interview is the rental agreement regulations, and how this might affect your child’s benefits. This part you do want to read. 🙂


  5. I called SS and was told that a decision was made and I was found to be fully favorable disabled.
    Now the first time I applied on my own in September 2014 (got denied) appealed (got denied again) got a lawyer in 2015 he worked my case finally had my hearing August 2017 got my decision got approved November 15, 2017. Now my question is will I receive back pay?
    And will I start receiving my benefits in December (before I became unable to work I was making 35,000 a year at a job I was on for 7 years and worked different jobs before that)? I have not gotten an award letter yet of course. So i don’t have any figures at all. I was also to that I might receive my back pay before my award letter (given the fact that I gave my account number. I know it’s a lot of questions but just want to know feeling excited and ready final get paid…


  6. I applied in September of 2014 and was denied. I appealed the case and was denied again. I then hire a lawyer in 2015. He took on my case I had my hearing in August 2017, got a decision on November 15, 2017 of fully favorable. I spoke with someone at the payment center which told me that it’s being process. I asked did she happen to see my bank account information she said she didn’t (but she saw my decision funny). I guess my question is with it being at the payment center how long will I have to wait before I receive my back pay. And am I entitled to anything. Before I became unable to work I was making work at the same job for 7 years making 35,000. Also worked different jobs before that.


  7. That’s what I was told and I also spoke with the rep from the payment center. Now I’ve read the link you gave me but still puzzled. Do you figure I still have to wait months or should I start checking my account next week…lol
    And is it a good thing that it’s at the payment center?


    1. I have no way to know for sure. If it is really at the payment center already, it usually is not a very long wait. For most people, the whole process takes a few months, but every now and then it does happen quickly for someone. Very much hoping it comes through soon.


  8. Hello, I know it’s thanksgiving day but I have a question. I look online at ssa.gov at my account and a decision was made for my SSDI but not my SSI. Also I was told in my decision letter that I was found disable as of December 2013. But online under my benefit verification letter (information about past SS benefits) it has November 2017 to November 2017. Could that be a typo. Also the beginning monthly payments before deductions is different from the regular monthly payments. Can you please explain in some type of way what could be the problem.
    By the way I have not gotten an award letter yet just going by what’s online.


    1. Congratulations on getting approved.

      My guess is they need to still do a financial interview to decide about the ssi. https://howtogeton.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/how-to-handle-an-ssi-interview/

      For the other things, the website may correct/update itself. If not you can inquire about these things during your ssi interview. If you can continue having problems. You can try: https://howtogeton.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/how-to-handle-an-ssi-interview/


  9. I was also told by a rep at the payment center that they are waiting on calculations from my local SS office cause it apears that i received SSI while waiting. Before I knew it I was telling that lady “honey I’ve been waiting for 3 years and have not gotten a dime”. I didn’t mean to scare her but I guess the tone of my voice did. She quickly said she’s sorry she’s just the manager and the person that does the BP amounts will contact me. She also told me around about figure for the BP. I guess my question is if I never got SSI can they still take money from me out of my back pay if approve for it.

    So for the long story!


  10. No not at all! I didn’t work in 2015. In 2016 I try to work here and there but my illness wouldn’t let me. Then here in 2017 I tried again but nothing to brag about, So I don’t understand. Im only 38 so chances are I might not get approve. I think getting approve will cut my back pay.


  11. And not to put my business out there but the judge gave me an AOD of December 2013. Which I was told that’s it’s a 6 month wait period not 5 and I could get back pay from June 2014 til current. I should be getting a check for November in December and being that my birth date fall on the 22nd of June. What to do, what you think? So lost!!


  12. It sounds like you have been approved. I think you will have to wait until they figure out the payments.

    They may need to do an SSI interview with you before they figure out the backpay.

    Once you get the award letter, you will have more information. It’s not possible to tell how things will turn out while everything is still being processed. Hope it goes great. 🙂


  13. Hello, so I had my SSI interview and I withdrew my application (the rep said it would speed up the process of getting my back pay cause with the money I’m do to get monthly I exceed the SSI limit) she had me fax her a written statement so she submit it in the system and ask the payment center to release my money. I called SS and was told that they saw where she submitted the decision and request. So now my question is “HOW MUCH LONGER”? Lol lawd I can use it. Has anyone been in this situation how long did it take you to check your account and started jumping up and down….lol.



  14. It sounds like things are moving forward well. There’s really no way to know how long it will be. Anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. If you are in a crisis situation, your congressperson can help speed things up. Congrats.


  15. I’m currently disabled and I have a child who is disabled as well. My husband is the only one working and I have 3 children to take care of. I need help with housecleaning and repairs. My husband works 2 jobs and never has to end to help out at home. My children can’t take care of the household like it needs to be. Is there any help available to help with housecleaning and home repairs?


    1. Hi Kathleen,

      This varies a lot by area. I don’t know if there will be something in your area, but you can find more about home care programs here:

      For home repairs, you might check some of the programs on this list and see if anything is possible: https://howtogeton.wordpress.com/2017/09/25/how-to-get-disability-home-modifications/

      Some states have programs that help with disabled children: http://www.kidswaivers.org

      I hope you are able to find some help. ❤


  16. I had my 5 year review hearing for my SSDI case. I had to provide a ton of info from my dr’s, etc., proving that I am not doing well. This couldn’t have come at a worse time. My dr’s and therapist were shocked that they were trying to take away my benefits. So last week I received an award letter for 2018. Is it save to say that I am still eligible to receive benefits? This is the only thing I have received since my hearing which was not that long ago. I’m confused.


    1. Hi Melissa,

      I think the letters to let people know their benefits next year are standard and sent to everyone. I believe the outcome of your review would come separately. I am glad you have support from your doctors.

      The vast majority of reviews are successful, but I’m not quite sure what you mean by hearing. Did you have to go to hearing?


  17. I was approved for ssi then told I’m not because I was also approved ssdi I was wondering will I still get back Payments from ssi


    1. Some people get some backpay from SSI, and some people don’t. It depends on when their application and onset date is. The SSI backpay is for up to five months, while waiting for the SSDI to begin.


  18. Hello,
    First, thank you for your help and replies to all. I’m about to apply for social security due to PTSD and other medical issues. I am rated 100% unemployable by the VA due to PTSD. My concern is $$. I receive a monthly payment by the VA and I am retired military. Will social security deny my SSDI because of these payments? Thoughts? Suggestions?

    Thank you again,


  19. Question…I was approved for SSDI 9/2014 w/ zero probs for chronic migraines & a slew of other issues. Award letter didn’t state they’d be reviewing my case at a later date. Today I received notice they’re reviewing it.
    Is this normal? My illness hasn’t improved, but I’m still concerned bc my former employer’s LTD also decided to review my case again at the exact same time. They just reviewed it 4 months ago. They usually review annually. The timing is weird. Btw, I love your site!!!


  20. My 83yr old disabled mom lives in her own apartment. She receives SSI and Section 8 rental assistance. She was recently diagnosed with dementia and Parkinson’s, and it is clear she is declining fast and will not be able to live on her own soon. Can she rent a room in my home and apply her Section 8 benefit?


  21. I just recently applied for ssi for my son they deemed him medically eleigible for ssi then i get a letter sayin they need more info i think its about income …im unemployed and my daughter is blind she gets $750 in ssi we live with my grandma pay her $400 for rent and her unearned income is $1,100 my question is how will the household income effect my sons ability to get ssi ???


    1. Hi Latisha,

      As far as I know, your child should be eligible. The siblings income and grandparent’s income should not matter.

      The only question might be whether $400 is considered the correct rent. If the rent is too low, that can lower an SSI check, but since your other child is getting the full SSI, it seems that they accepted that rent as correct in the past.

      If any issues come up with rent, the SSA worker should be able to tell you what is considered the correct amount for your share of rent for your household. Hope it goes great for you.

      (p.s. if you live in california or minnesota you may be able to be paid for the care you provide for your children)


    1. If you are married or were married for at least 10 years, it is possible they will switch you to spousal benefits – sometimes more money.

      If not, nothing happens. I believe your benefits continue as normal.


  22. I am writing in regards of my son who is 22 with a lot of mental issues,he has been denied twice already,he us currently in hospital for his mental condition he has been fighting mental illness since 14. We are about to file again cause financially I can’t keep taking care of him,he’s unable to keep a job because of his illness,,I don’t know what we’re doing wrong when we apply any help would be greatly appreciated thanks


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s