Two Kinds of Social Security Disability Benefits


The Social Security Administration offers two major programs that provide benefits to people with disabilities: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Social Security Income (SSI).  Though the names are similar, they differ in a number of ways.

SSDI serves people with disabilities who have worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. SSI helps support disabled people who have low incomes or are 65 and older.

SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance)

Anyone who works and pays Social Security taxes is earning work credits to qualify for SSDI if they become disabled. To receive SSDI benefits, you must have a disability as determined by the Social Security Administration and a certain number of work credits over the years.

Payments through SSDI are based on your pre-disability income, though payouts will be below what you previously earned. Your spouse and children can also receive benefits, which continue after your death.

The average SSDI monthly benefit in October 2013 was $981.72.  Disabled workers received on average $1,128, their spouses, $303; and their children, $335.

SSI (Supplemental Security Income)

SSI provides benefits to the disabled, blind, and those older than 65. To receive SSI, you must have very limited income and resources.  Disability criteria are similar to that of SSDI.

Unlike SSDI, however, work history has no bearing on whether you receive SSI or the amount of your benefits.  The program provides basic support if you are disabled and have not earned enough work credits because you did not work long enough or did not pay into Social Security.

To determine your eligibility for SSI, the Social Security Administration looks at your current income and resources. Resources, including savings, property and other assets, must be less than $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple.  For more information on what counts as a resource, visit:

The maximum monthly payment from SSI was $710 as of January 2013.  Current income and resources can reduce the payment. SSI recipients in South Carolina may receive additional funding if they live in a licensed community residential care facility.  In 2011, the supplement was $483.

Most recipients under both programs are under 65.  Approximately 95% of SSDI recipients (excluding spouses and children) are under 65. Meanwhile, three fourths of SSI recipients are under 65.  The majority of recipients qualify for benefits because of disability or blindness.


  • Understanding Supplemental Security Income (SSI) — SSI Overview
  • Benefits for People with Disabilities
  • State Assistance Programs for SSI Recipients, January 2011 – South Carolina
  • Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, 2012

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