What are the differences between the SSDI and SSI disability programs?
Often when people talk about "disability" in regard to Social Security, they do not differentiate between the two different programs. Consequently, clients are often confused about what benefits are available from each program and what rules govern each program.
SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) also known as Title II benefitsA person qualifies for SSDI through his or her earnings and by earning quarters of coverage though paying FICA. The monthly amount of benefits is dependent upon those earnings. The maximum amount of benefits is $2,642 per month (for 2019) although the national average is approximately $1,400 per month. With these benefits, a claimant obtains access to Medicare 29 months after the onset date of the disability. SSDI benefits also provide for dependent benefits if you have minor children through the age of 18 (or 19 if enrolled in high school). SSDI may be garnished for child support.
SSI (Supplemental Security Income) also known as Title XVI benefitsA person qualifies for SSI regardless of work history or earnings. However, the monthly amount is capped at $771 per month (as of 2019). If someone else is providing food and shelter, the benefits will be reduced. SSI is "means" tested such that a person cannot have more than $2000 in assets as an individual, or $3000 in assets as a married couple. The Administration does not count the house that you live in or one vehicle. The Administration also does not count personal items such as jewelry and clothing. If the claimant is married, the Administration will consider spousal income. Often, if someone is married, he or she will not qualify for SSI due to that income. With SSI benefits, a claimant obtains access to Medicaid as of the date of application. SSI does not provide for dependent benefits. SSI cannot be garnished for child support.
How is backpay calculated for these programs?For SSDI, the maximum amount of back pay you can receive is one year prior to your filing date, regardless of when you are found to be disabled. For example, a Claimant goes out of work in January 2016 and then files for SSDI in August 2018 claiming an onset of January 2016. Although a judge may find the claimant disabled as of January 2016, when backpay is calculated, it will only go back to August 2017. For SSI, there is no back pay prior to the date of the application.
Can I get both SSDI and SSI?Usually, someone cannot receive both SSDI and SSI. Even if you have applied for both benefit programs, and are found disabled under both programs, the Administration will only provide whichever benefit is greater. For most people with prior earnings, SSDI provides a greater benefit. In rare cases, the SSDI benefit is less than the SSI benefit. In those cases, the claimant would receive benefits from both programs, but the monthly amount will not exceed the maximum amount he or she would be entitled to under SSI. For example, if the SSDI benefit was only $500 per month, then the claimant would receive $500 from SSDI and $271 from SSI (for 2019). This claimant would also be entitled to Medicare and Medicaid.