Skip to main content

What is the Difference Between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Posted by attorney Cathy Brackin


Many people use the terms Social Security Disability and SSI interchangably, however, these are actually two different programs. For both programs you need to be disabled. The definition of "disability" is the same for both SS Disability and SSI. Here are the differences.

SS Disability is a program that you pay into. When you work, SS is deducted from your paycheck. If you are age 31 or older you need to have paid into the SS system 20 out of the last 40 quarters, in other words, 5 out the last 10 years. (Fewer quarters are needed for those under 31, depending on your age._ The amount of your monthly benefit is calculated based on your earnings. Once you are on Social Security Disability for 24 months, then you're entitled to Medicare.

SSI, on the other hand, is a welfare program. It's for people who don't have enough quarters paid into the Social Security system. In fact you need not have worked at all. You do have to meet SS's financial requirements and have very limited income and assets. Once you're approved for SSI, you get Medicaid.

Additional resources provided by the author

Author of this guide:

Was this guide helpful?