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Understanding the difference between SSDI and SSI

There are many acronyms used in our federal government, and one that really stumps people is the difference between SSDI and SSI.


SSDI stands for “Social Security Disability Insurance”, while SSI stands for “Supplemental Security Income”.  What is the difference between these two acronyms, that differ by only one letter?


SSDI is an insurance program that is funded by taxes paid by workers and employers.  You can only get SSDI if you’ve been paying into the system for a specified number of time.  You can receive these disability benefits if you become disabled or seriously ill and are unable to work.  These benefits are also available to your spouse or children if you become very ill or incapacitated due to disease or injury.


SSI, on the other hand, is a program financed by general revenues.  It is intended as a program to help grown men and women and children who are struggling financially because of disability.  To qualify for SSI, you must meet certain living arrangement and income requirements.


The amount of money that you receive for SSDI is based your Social Security earnings record – that’s the money you made while you were paying Social Security taxes.  SSI benefits, on the other hand, vary and can go up to a maximum federal benefit rate.