Social Security offers two programs for those seeking benefits in conjunction with their mental and physical disabilities.
Social Security Disability is a program for people who have worked and paid into the system through payroll deductions, and who have developed a disability expected to last one year or more or until they die.
Supplemental Security Income is a program that helps those who are disabled but do not qualify for Social Security Disability because they have not worked for some time or they are students who have not yet entered the workforce. It is based upon need and not whether a person qualifies with an insured status, unlike SSDI. Generally, it is for people with very low incomes who are 65 or older and to children who are disabled or blind. Unlike SSDI, which is financed through payroll deductions, SSI is paid for by general revenues collected by the Treasury Department.
Waiting periods differ between the two programs. SSI has no waiting period and a beneficiary can start receiving benefits the month they file for disability. SSDI, on the other hand, has a five-month waiting period from the time a person became disabled. This is offset by the fact that SSDI may be able to provide benefits to the claimant’s dependents if there is any money left over from the claimants fund after they have been paid. SSI does not allow for dependents to be paid under any circumstances.
Health insurance is another key difference between the two programs. SSI beneficiaries can start receiving Medicaid when they are approved for SSI benefits. SSDI beneficiaries must wait two years from the month they become eligible to get Medicare coverage.
In some instances, it is possible to be eligible for both SSDI and SSI, however, most people only qualify for one or the other. One example of being eligible for both programs is when a person applies for SSDI and has to wait an extended period for approval, their income and asset levels may fall to the degree that they qualify for SSI benefits. SSI benefits will terminate most of the time when a beneficiary starts drawing SSDI benefits, because SSDI benefits are higher than SSI benefits in most all cases. In rare cases where the SSDI benefit is lower than the SSI benefit, a person can still draw benefits from both programs.