What Will I Qualify for? SSI? SSDI? Both? Neither?

Artwork: Robin Mead

Social Security has two different disability programs, they are called SSI and SSDI. Some people get one and some people get the other and some people get both and (rarely) some people get neither.

You can learn more about what each of these programs is here: How to Tell The Difference Between SSI and SSDI


If you don’t know what to apply for, don’t worry. You do not need to really read this page. You can just apply for both and Social Security will tell you what you qualify for. You can apply for them both at the same time and the application is more or less the same.

If you are told that you cannot apply or you want to learn more about how this works, here are the steps to figure it out:


🌟 SSI and SSDI have the exact same medical criteria. The decision is made the same way, at the same time, by the same person, using all the same forms and records. They look at several things including your functioning, severity, and current level of work. Here’s where you can find out: How Do I Know If I Am Eligible to Apply?


🌟 You can qualify for SSDI if you worked and paid taxes, but it depends how much you worked and how recently you worked. Some people say, “five out of the last ten years,” but this is not exactly true in all cases.

🌟 If you’ve already looked at your Social Security Statement or online account and it showed you an estimated amount of disability benefits, that means you are eligible for SSDI. If not, here’s how to find out: Do I Have Enough Work Credits for SSDI?


🌟 If you found out that you don’t have enough work credits, some people just give up, and apply for SSI instead. While this is a fine option, if you want to keep looking into it, SSDI will probably make you happier: 21 Ways To Apply if You Don’t Have Enough Work Credits


🌟  If you are poor, and you are a US citizen, you are eligible to apply for SSI. That’s it! It does not matter if you never worked a day in your life. If you are poor, you are eligible. How Poor Do I Have to Be to Get SSI?


🌟  If you don’t qualify for SSI: If My Life Changes, Will I Become Eligible?

🌟 If your SSDI check is going to be under $800: Can I Get Both SSI and SSDI?

🌟 In case you were wondering: Why is SSDI Better Than SSI?

🌟 If your disability started before age 22: Using Your Parent’s Work Credits

🌟 If you are age 50+: Widow or Ex-Widow Benefits

🌟 More options: Other Kinds of Disability


🌟 Here’s a tip: On the SSDI application, there is a question asking if you intend to apply for SSI as well. If you are poor, always check yes. There is a special loophole where sometimes this means more backpay.

Thanks for Reading

🌸 Art on this page by Robin Mead and Elizabeth D’Angelo.

🌸 Page Updated: 8/1/19

🌸 To get daily updates on helpful disability services, and low income programs, follow on Facebook: The Sleepy Girl Guide.

🌸 Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. Please share this page with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: 

7 thoughts on “What Will I Qualify for? SSI? SSDI? Both? Neither?”

  1. Hi, thank you so much for all you’ve put into this website. It’s very helpful.
    My daughter was diagnosed with ME/CFS when she was 19 and had to temporarily leave the university. She returned to school after about 6 months but was never able to go back full time and had to have accommodations. She graduated last June and is now 24. She is not going to be able to work full time and working part time is difficult but it is essentially her social life since other than this job she is housebound.She is now working about 12hours/week as an assistant coach at her old high school. She makes $2000 per season. She has about $8000 in savings. We would like her to pay rent. Can she start now or will that look fishy is we apply soon?
    I am disabled and think my daughter could qualify for the Adult Child benefits program. I don’t know is I should apply for SSDI or SSI or both to access that program. Again, thank you so much.


    1. Hi Mimi,

      She cannot apply for SSI until she has less than $2,000 in countable assets. She should be able to open an ABLE account, place her savings there, and then apply. Please look at the guidelines for able to make sure she qualifies. If you state does not have ABLE you can open one in another state.

      She could apply for disabled adult child benefits without applying for the SSI, but it might be easier if she applies for both together.

      Info on this page on Adult Child benefits and how to prove she became disabled before age 22: https://howtogeton.wordpress.com/how-to-get-adult-disabled-child-benefits/

      She can start paying rent any time she wishes. There are no regulations against starting or stopping rent at any time. A signed rental agreement would be ideal, and she may be able to use her ABLE account to pay rent.

      The only regulation is against giving money away or hiding money. She cannot give money away and then apply for SSI. If she spends her savings, they may ask where the money went, so avoid cash transactions, spend money in some way that gives a record or receipt.

      Hope this helps. ❤


  2. Thank you so much for this site! I’m so overwhelmed by this process, but I have to do it so I can survive! 😦


  3. Hi DM,

    This is my understanding:

    1. If your daughter is disabled, she should collect off your earning records for the rest of her life (not just til age 22). It is called Adult Disabled Child benefits, and it only stops if the child gets married or if the child is no longer disabled.

    2. I believe that you are correct that it will lower your son’s check. I am not sure there is a way around it, because as far as I know SSI requires that you collect any other type of SSA funds available to you, and then only collect SSI if nothing else is possible.

    3. In happier news, there may be options for your daughters check to change. $500 is not full SSI. Maximum SSI is $735 in most states. Slightly higher in some places. $910 in California. Do you know why she is not getting full SSI? Most often this happens when families do not know the living arrangement regulations. https://howtogeton.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/how-to-figure-out-how-much-rent-to-pay-on-ssi/ also: https://howtogeton.wordpress.com/2017/02/21/ten-common-reasons-an-ssi-check-might-be-low/

    4. Sounds like she might wind up on a combination of SSI and adult child benefits. This would also give her both medicaid and medicare which is a super good combo.

    hope this helps.


  4. Hi Sleepygirl! Thanks for your pages about SSA programs.

    I have two disabled children and collect SSDI myself. When I qualified a few years ago, my children also each received a modest monthly benefit. Recently my daughter turned 18, and I applied for SSI for her. She got a bit more ($500) from SSI than she had from SSDI, but my son’s benefit increased, I guess because my daughter’s SSI was not counted in the “family cap”.

    I called SSA about this, and they said that my daughter should be collecting SSDI on my earnings record until age 22, or until she stops going to school. Apparently they will “make up the difference” with SSI, so that she would still get the $500 or whatever they determine the correct benefit should be. They’ve scheduled a redet hearing for us.

    My concern is that if she collects SSDI as an adult disabled child on my earnings record, won’t that result in my son’s benefit being cut again because of the family cap? Do I have any say in that? It seems to me that if she is an adult, she should get her own SSI benefit and it should not impact her brother’s.



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