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Is SSI the same as Social Security disability?

The Social Security Administration manages different programs to provide financial stability to Americans, two of which are targeted at the disabled.

The difference between Social Security disabilities programs
Fred ProuserREUTERS

The Social Security Administration manages different programs to provide financial stability to Americans. These have been highly successful in keeping those who have retired or can’t work due to disability from falling into poverty. Currently around one in five Americans receive a Social Security benefit of some kind.

The most well-known program is that for old-age retirement benefits, but two of the other most common programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These initiatives provide financial assistance for senior citizens and those living with disabilities.

Around 7 million receive monthly payments from SSDI due to a work-related injury preventing them from returning to their job, or a family member that is disabled. Another 5 million Americans receive SSI which targets senior citizens and those living with disabilities with limited financial means.

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What is Supplemental Security Income?

SSI is designed to provide basic financial assistance for older adults and people with disabilities who have very limited income. The program administrated by the SSA is typically supplemented by support programs in most of the states which boost the federal SSI payments by varying amounts.

Eligibility for the program is based solely on age or disability along with limited income and resources.

What is Social Security Disability Insurance?

To qualify for the SSDI individuals must be registered as disabled in some way, and must also satisfy certain work history requirements. However, bear in mind that family members (spouse or parent) can also be used to satisfy the work history requirements. When a recipient reaches full retirement age this benefit converts into a retirement benefit, remaining the same for most beneficiaries.

Those eligible to receive SSDI payments will automatically qualify for Medicare coverage after 24 months, and claimants with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) will qualify immediately.

Can you receive both SSI and SSDI?

Yes – it is possible to qualify and receive payments from both programs, provided you satisfy their respective criteria. However it should be noted that recipients of SSI are required to report any changes to their living arrangements or income. To clarify your eligibility for the programs you can contact the SSA, toll-free on 1-800-772-12.

If you think you are eligible for either the SSI or SSDI, you can contact the SSA on 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), between 7am and 7pm, Monday through Friday.

You may apply for SSDI benefits online, using the SSA’s dedicated online portal. There is an online portal for the SSI program, but it is only available for adults with a disability. Alternatively, you can apply for SSI payments by visiting your local Social Security office.

Before starting the process, claimants should be aware that the average wait time for an SSI or SSDI application to be approved is between three and five months and may currently be longer due to pandemic disruption. Claimants with severe disability can apply for an expedited review of their application by using the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) classification.