What’s the Difference Between SSI and SSDI?

What is SSI?  What is SSDI?

Social Security has two programs that pay disabled people. One is SSI (Supplemental Security Income); the other is “regular” Social Security, or SSDI. There is a lot of confusion about these two programs in the mind of the public. The difference is simple.

The SSDI or “regular” disability program pays a claimant based on the money paid into Social Security during his or her work life. The amount is determined by how much has been paid in, divided by years of life expectancy. Payments may also be sent to a spouse and children. Eligibility includes Medicare 26 months after onset date.

The SSI program is an entitlement program, paid to people who have no work record during the past five years. There is an asset limitationand a household income limitation for eligibility as well. There is immediate state Medicaid coverage with this program.

As The New York Times reports, the number of applicants for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) has fallen even faster since 2015 than the Social Security Administration (SSA) expected. The strong job market is making it possible for anyone who needs to work to find a job.  In fact, disability applications and benefit awards have fallen for nearly a decade, even if some government officials haven’t acknowledged it. But the shift is significant, and it’s good news for SSDI’s finances.

SSDI applications and awards have fallen by over 25 percent since 2010 (see chart), while the number of beneficiaries has dropped by over 600,000 over the past four years. And Social Security’s trustees project that the share of Americans receiving SSDI will remain flat over the next 20 years.

Disability Insurance Applications and Awards Have Fallen Significantly Since 2010