Social Security Disability vs Supplemental Security Income

Social Security has two different benefit programs for individuals who are disabled.

  • Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB, also known as SSDI, or Title 2 benefits); and
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI or Title 16 benefits).

Because of its name, it is a common misconception that must apply for “Disability Insurance” if you are disabled. Actually, both programs provide disability benefits.

So, what’s the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? Read on!

What is Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)?

Generally, Disability Insurance Benefits are based on your payroll contribution to Social Security.  To qualify for DIB, you have to have earned enough Social Security credits, in the right time frame, by paying into Social Security through payroll taxes.

There are several circumstances in which you may not have enough credits for Social Security Disability Insurance:

  • If you have never worked.
  • You worked so long ago that you are past your date last insured.
  • Instead of paying into Social Security, you paid into a state program (such as PERA).

In each of these cases, you might not be eligible for Disability Insurance (DIB).
Please note that this is just an overview.  There are several circumstances in which you may still be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (DIB) even if you do not have not have enough credits under your own earnings, including:  

It is often a good idea to speak with Social Security if you think you may qualify for one of these other types of Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB).

What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Even if you are not eligible for DIB, you may still be able to apply for SSI.

Supplemental Security Income is a Social Security program which provides disability benefits to the following groups:

  • Children,
  • Adults who have never worked; and
  • Adults who do not have enough quarters of coverage, or are past their date last insured.

Between a Rock and Hard Place:

Is it possible to not be eligible for either Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Sadly, yes.

If you cannot prove your disability prior to your date last insured, and your spouse makes too much money (or you have another problematic source of income), it is possible that you may not qualify for either DIB or SSI.  This is the proverbial between a rock and a hard place.

Which Program Should I Apply For?

In my opinion, apply for both.  Do not rule out your eligibility for a particular Social Security program. When you apply, Social Security will determine which benefit program(s) you are eligible for and will help you file the application. However, if you want to know if you will qualify for either program, Social Security has a website where you can see what benefits you may be eligible for.

But, Wait!  There’s More.

Once again, this is just a quick overview of DIB and SSI.  There are differences between Social Security Disability Insurance (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) which I will address in other articles.

  • Benjamin

    My mom is getting SSD benefits now, but in a month she'll be inheriting an estate from my recently passed grandmother. Will this affect her benefits or no? We're desperately looking for an answer.

  • TomaszStasiuk

    Read Brenda's question in the comments of this article and the reply:

    Don't get scared off by the article, it only applies in SSI cases.

  • Federal Payroll Tax

    What upsets me is that people can apply for disability or ssi for being alcoholics or drug addicts (my loser aunt has been collecting for alcoholism for years) but people who have legitimate ailments that prevent work such as Severe Bi-polar are denied.

  • TomaszStasiuk

    That it is a common misconception.

    No one is on Social Security BECAUSE of alcoholism or drug addiction.

    Social Security has regulations, which all the judges I am familiar with zealously apply, which state that if drug abuse or alcoholism are material and contributory to a disability, benefits will be denied.

    So, are there alcoholics on Social Security? Yes.
    Are there drug addicts on Social Security? Yes.

    But, these people are NOT getting Social Security disability benefits BECAUSE of either alcoholism or drug addictions.

    Social Security has to have found that there is a SEPARATE impairment that is not affected by the alcoholism or drug addiction which makes these people disabled.

    I can't speak for your aunt, and I know everyone has a story about a neighbor or acquaintance who is getting Social Security when they “are not really disabled,” but as someone in the trenches fighting along side people who have been denied, I can tell you that Social Security does not cut a break to alcoholics or drug addicts.

  • virtual insurance

    great explanations, just add your Rss to my readers and waiting for another great articles

  • lifequotes

    I am totally impressed by your blog work, keep posts like this one coming. Will be back again.

  • lifequotes

    I am totally impressed by your blog work, keep posts like this one coming. Will be back again.

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  • Cheaper Health Insurance

    Disability insurance benefits is One of the most important sections of the policy describes the benefits that will be provided to insure some level of financial protection if you become disabled and are no longer able to earn an income.

  • Larry

    I am 62 and on disabled. My son will receive survivor benefits until he turns 18. He will still be living with me when he graduates from high school to attend college full time. Do his benefits discontinue even though he will be living with me and attending college full time?

    Are their any programs out there for me or him than can aid him in costs for college education?

  • Indylite_hicks

    i have been on ssi-d for a year. but i have been on work comp for the past 10yr. i recived 3grand from ssi-d cause comp pays me. i get $30.00 month from ssi-d. the irs is telling me i owe the 10grand in taxes on a settlement from ssi-d that would have been 50 grand. i have never got or recive full ssi-d benifits. where do they exspect the 10 grand to come from that the irs wants. work comp isnt taxable. i hope you help. this is so furstraighting and stressful.

    • TomaszStasiuk

      I am the wrong person to ask. I do not handle tax matters.

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