man in wheelchairSSDI or SSI?

Many people confuse the terms SSI and SSDI when it comes to disability. However, they are two separate programs and, although related, are very much different. In similarity, both programs are a part of the Social Security system and provide paychecks to people who are unable to work due to disabilities, but that is where the similarities end.



SSDI, or Social Security Disability Insurance, is provided to people who are unable to work gainfully due to a mental and/or physical disability but who have worked previously, paid Social Security taxes and have worked long enough to qualify for SSDI benefits  (see for an explanation about the length of time a person must have worked).

The size of the monthly paycheck received by SSDI beneficiaries is determined by the amount of Social Security one has paid into the system. People who have worked more years or earned higher incomes are generally paid more. Currently the average SSDI check is just over $1,000 each month.

People who are earning SSDI benefits may also work if capable of doing so but if they earn more than about $800 per month they could jeopardize their benefits unless they have enrolled in the Ticket to Work Program (see this article for a more in-depth discussion about working while on SSDI If a person chooses to work, their earnings are not automatically deducted from their benefits. They can actually earn a limited amount and still be paid full benefits.


SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, is provided to people who are unable to work due to physical or mental disabilities but do not qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance as described above. The majority of people who receive SSI benefits are under the age of 21 or were under 21 when their disability occurred. As such they did not work long enough to qualify for Disability Insurance.

A second group of SSI beneficiaries are people who may have worked, but then either quit work or worked too little a period of time immediately prior to their disability to qualify for SSDI. An example of this group would be stay at home moms and dads. These people probably worked until the time they had children, but then quit working to raise the children. After several years of not paying into the Social Security System they no longer qualify for SSDI benefits if they become disabled and are rolled over to SSI should they need benefits until they reach retirement age.

SSI paychecks are much lower than SSDI benefits. The current average SSI paycheck is only $733 for a single person or $1,100 for a couple per month. In some states a beneficiary may also qualify for an additional supplementary benefit.  Currently Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota and West Virginia are the only states that do not provide supplements. If a person is receiving SSI benefits and also works, any amount earned that is greater than $85 may be deducted from their SSI benefits. There is a formula that is used to determine the exact amount. More on that can be found at this article,


Both Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance programs can provide a stable income for someone who is physically unable to work.  They are a failsafe for at least some income to pay bills with.

Applying for either program as an adult applicant starts on the Social Security Administration website. A form may be completed and the Administration will determine which program you should be enrolled in.


Contact the Cochran Firm Disability Lawyers if you desire assistance or have questions while going through the application or appeals process. Your first consultation is free. Simply fill out the form on this page and we’ll contact you soon.




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About the Cochran Firm Disability Lawyers
Recognized as one of the nation’s premier law firms, The Cochran Firm handles cases on behalf of clients seeking a Personal Injury Lawyer, Criminal Defense, Medical Malpractice, Bankruptcy Attorney in Atlanta or Social Security Disability Lawyer.The Firm can be reached at 1-800-THE-FIRM (1-800-843-3476) or fill out the form on this page. “Working for You.” Article by Benjamin A. Irwin, Esq.





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