What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?

Social Security is responsible for two safety net programs that offer monthly payments to people that cannot earn a living or work. These two programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

SSDI serves people who have worked and paid taxes into the Social Security system before becoming disabled. An individual who is judged disabled can receive SSDI benefits, regardless of their family income or individual assets, though there are later limitations that are applied. SSDI is a fixed amount that is only reduced if the recipient goes over an earned income limit that changes year by year.

SSI is a needs-based program that pays benefits to the qualified disabled person regardless of their work history or taxes paid into Social Security. The applicant’s assets and earnings must be under certain thresholds to qualify for SSI. SSI awards are a bit more complicated, scaling down if the recipient has an income, depending on the amount.