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In the United States, several federal programs provide benefits and financial assistance to persons with disabilities or employees who have been permanently injured at work and can no longer perform necessary tasks. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are the two primary benefits programs. The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) is responsible for distributing these supplemental benefits to employees who are disabled or are permanently injured on the job.

Working with a well-versed social security disability attorney explicitly experienced in your state’s specific requirements is the best way to achieve an optimal outcome in your situation. Your legal advocate will explain the primary differences between SSI and SSDI, helping you determine the best fit for you.

What Is SSI?

SSI is a “means-tested” government program, so financial support is allocated solely based on a person’s needs, not their past work experience. Income and assets are used to ascertain the amount of supplemental income you’ll receive with SSI, and work history is disregarded. General taxes fund this government program. 

SSI Eligibility Requirements

Since SSI is considered “means-tested,” receiving financial assistance requires a few pieces of information about your personal assets and income. The SSI earning requirements for eligibility vary by marital status. The rules are as follows:

  • For single persons looking to meet the current SSI income requirements, they must have less than $2,000 in personal assets.
  • Couples can have as much as $3,000 in assets to meet SSI eligibility requirements.
  • You must have an extremely limited income, regardless of your status.
  • You must be able to access all assets quickly and be able to convert them to cash

Those with disabilities who also meet income requirements for SSI may also be eligible to receive Medicaid or food stamps, depending on their state of residence. An experienced Social Security Disability attorney in your area will assist throughout the process when seeking out these programs. Your legal representative will evaluate your circumstances to determine if you meet earning requirements and ultimately qualify for SSI benefits.

You can view the complete list of SSA requirements for Supplemental Security Income right here.

What Is SSDI?

When a workplace injury occurs that leads to permanent disability or hinders how well you can perform necessary tasks on the job, the Social Security Disability program will provide financial assistance. SSDI benefits are only available to blind or disabled employees who have contributed enough past income to the Social Security trust fund, governed by the U.S. Treasury.

SSDI Eligibility Requirements

When you need cash assistance after a workplace injury severe enough to cause permanent bodily damage, blindness, or another disability, the SSDI program is explicitly crafted to help during these times. The eligibility requirements to receive Social Security Disability Insurance include:

  • Workers under the age of 24 are required to complete at least 1.5 years of contributions to the Social Security trust fund in the three years before a disability to qualify for this program.
  • Those over 30 must meet a threshold of five years of contributions throughout at least ten years of employment.
  • Employees between the ages of 24 and 30 must work at least half of the time between their 21st birthday and the time of workplace injury or disability.
  • If you can still work with your disability, your income must fall below the program’s limit after deducting disability-related expenses to meet eligibility requirements.

Although the SSA takes into account your most recent work history, you will still need to supply a full background of your career. SSDI eligibility requirements call for a total contribution duration between 1.5 and 9.5 years, with exceptions varying by age. The limits on your income are also known as the threshold for Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) and factor into your final benefit amount.

For further information on eligibility requirements for SSDI, visit the Social Security Administration’s website here.

The Similarities of SSI and SSDI

SSI and SSDI are government-funded financial assistance programs that provide benefits to injured or disabled workers if their performance is permanently impacted. These valuable programs can help people struggling with medical bills or other essential monthly payments.

Understandably, many people mix up SSI and SSDI since both are government disability assistance programs with acronyms that can get easily confused. Additionally, SSI and SSDI each use the same criteria to determine your current eligibility. These five eligibility indicators include:

  1. Current employment status
  2. Type of condition or disability (not all are eligible)
  3. The severity of an injury or disabling conditions
  4. Impact on working ability
  5. Ability to take on alternative work

While the initial eligibility questions for each assistance program are alike, the key distinctions between SSI and SSDI and the determination of your benefits will boil down to assets, income, and earning requirements.

So, Is There Actually a Difference?

It’s easy to confuse SSI and SSDI since both are Social Security programs that use standardized determining factors to assist disabled people and permanently injured workers financially in the United States. The acronyms, governing agencies, and eligibility criteria are highly similar, but that is where the commonalities between these programs are put to an end. Below, we look at the three most significant differences between SSI and SSDI:

  • SSI is needs-based, so you can only qualify if your countable income and assets stay below a certain level each month.
  • SSDI benefits are based on earned income credits. You must obtain enough credits regardless of your disability status to qualify for SSDI.
  • It is possible to receive SSI and SSDI simultaneously, but SSI will consider all SSDI assistance as unearned income, potentially affecting your other SSI benefits.

When you’re unable to work due to an injury or disability acquired on the job, your chosen attorney or legal team can assist in receiving the best benefits possible between SSI and SSDI. Experienced social security disability lawyers like those on the team at Mottaz & Sisk can make acquiring the financial assistance you need a simple, stress-free process. Put your trust in an attorney to take care of everything from your initial case evaluation to finally securing SSI or SSDI benefits.

Key Takeaways

Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance can often seem like pretty much the same programs, but there are distinct differences. Earning requirements and other factors play into the amount of financial compensation or income assistance you will receive from each government program.

If you’re still confused about your eligibility for either the SSI or SSDI programs, an attorney can walk you through the process. Your legal advocate will aid you in determining the most practical financial assistance program to pursue per your unique circumstances. Contact Mottaz & Sisk today to speak with a knowledgeable and trusted attorney from our team of Minnesota social security disability lawyers.

Jerry Sisk

Jerry Sisk

Jerry is a Minnesota workers' compensation attorney and work injury lawyer. He a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association, Minnesota Association of Justice, and Anoka County Bar Association. He has 10/10 on Avvo, 5 Stars on Google, AV Rated through Martindale-Hubbell and National Trial Lawyers Top 100. Currently, he is Co-Chair of the Work Comp Section of the Minnesota Association of Justice.