Why Are SSDI Payments More Than SSI?

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Seniors and people living with disabilities can apply for two different benefits – Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Social Security Administration (SSA) supports both of these federal financial assistance programs.

However, disability benefits claims have a reputation as a time-consuming and inefficient process. People entering their 60s want to apply for disability benefits a couple of years early to avoid the hassle. Understanding and navigating the complex legal process can be overwhelming, especially when you don’t even know the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

If you have a disability or are unable to work due to injury or severe disease, you can apply for the Social Security program –  but knowing which one to apply for and how much financial support to expect is vital. You can visit or consult a disability law firm for guidance about your claim. Both programs provide monthly payments, but SSDI payments are typically higher than SSI payments. This guide explains the significant difference between SSDI and SSI and why SSDI payments are higher than SSI.

Let’s get started.

What is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that offers financial support to individuals who are unable to work full-time or at all due to a disability. It requires a sufficient work history and Social Security taxes paid through payroll deductions (FICA taxes).

SSDI Eligibility

To be eligible for SSDI, you must meet certain of the SSA’s criteria:

  • You need to have enough work credits, which are earned through past wages and self-employment taxes, for at least five out of the last ten years.
  • You have a medical condition that should qualify for the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of disability (severe enough to prevent substantial gainful activity (SGA)). The disability is expected to last at least one year or result in death.
  • You should be at least 18 and no older than your full retirement age (between 66 and 67).

SSDI Benefits

SSDI benefits are based on your average lifetime earnings over your working career. You’ll get monthly payments, but the amount you receive may vary. It is usually higher than SSI payments. Another advantage of SSDI benefits is that eligible dependents, such as your spouse and children, can also qualify for the disability benefits.

What is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a financial support program that offers assistance to low-income individuals who are blind, disabled, or 65 or older. General tax revenues fund it, so there is no need for prior work history.

SSI Eligibility

To qualify for SSI, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or a legal resident for a specific period.
  • Applicants must have limited income and resources.
  • Applicants must be aged 65 or older, blind, or disabled, or have a medical condition that meets the SSA’s definition of disability.

SSI Benefits

SSI benefits are a fixed monthly amount set by the SSA and adjusted annually for cost-of-living increases. Unlike SSDI, this amount is not based on past earnings or work history. As of 2024, the federal base rate is $794 for an individual and $1,191 for a couple.

SSDI Vs. SSI: Similarities and Differences

Funding SourcePayroll taxesGeneral tax revenuesBoth are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA)SSDI is funded through payroll taxes; SSI is funded by general tax revenues
Eligibility CriteriaBased on work history and creditsBased on financial needBoth require the applicant to have a qualifying disabilitySSDI requires sufficient work history; SSI is based on limited income and resources
Benefit CalculationBased on average lifetime earningsFixed federal benefit rateBoth require detailed medical documentation to applySSDI benefits are earnings-based; SSI benefits are fixed and supplemented by some states
Monthly PaymentsVaries, typically higherFixed ($943 for individuals, $1,415 for couples in 2024)Both are subject to periodic reviews to ensure continued eligibilitySSDI payments are generally higher than SSI payments
Health CoverageMedicare after 24 monthsMedicaidBoth have a rigorous application processSSDI recipients get Medicare; SSI recipients get Medicaid
Residency RequirementsMust be a U.S. residentMust be a U.S. residentBoth provide financial assistance to eligible disabled individualsBoth require U.S. residency, but SSI also includes the Northern Mariana Islands

Which Pays More?

SSI and SSDI have various benefit amounts, and SSDI payments are usually significantly higher than SSI benefits. In 2024, the maximum federal benefit for a single person on SSI is $943 per month, while a married couple can receive up to $1,415 combined. SSDI benefits, on the other hand, are based on your past earnings and can be significantly higher. The average monthly SSDI payment in 2024 is $1,537, and the maximum benefit can reach $3,822 per month.

So, why are SSDI payments more than SSI?

SSDI payments are generally higher than SSI payments due to the way benefits are calculated. SSDI is an earned benefit that replaces a portion of your lost income due to disability. SSI, on the other hand, is a need-based program that provides a basic level of financial support.

Hire a Disability Lawyer

Understanding the application process of disability benefits can be complex and time-consuming. The SSA has strict criteria for eligibility and requires strong medical evidence, and submission of the wrong documentation or information can result in the denial of your claim. Hiring a disability lawyer can make the process smoother and increase your chances of approval. Whether you are still determining which program you qualify for or if you need help navigating the application process, these legal professionals will help you. 

Final Thoughts

Understanding the differences between SSDI and SSI is crucial for disabled individuals seeking financial assistance. While both programs provide essential support, SSDI typically offers higher payments due to its earnings-based calculation and work history requirements. If you have any confusion about eligibility or are seeking more personalized guidance, consulting a disability law firm and visiting can provide valuable assistance.