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What is the Difference between SSI and SSD? What Do I Qualify For?


The primary difference between SSI, or supplemental security income, and SSD, or Social Security disability insurance, lies in whether you must have worked and paid Social Security taxes to qualify for benefits. According to the Social Security Administration, to qualify for SSI, you need no history of employment or paying Social Security taxes. You must:

  • Be disabled or blind
  • Have limited income
  • Have limited resources and assets
  • Be a U.S. citizen or national, or in one of certain categories of aliens
  • Live in the United States or the Northern Mariana Islands

SSI exists to help people who may not qualify for welfare or who may require income assistance past the period in which welfare payments are available. Where welfare is usually viewed as temporary assistance until recipients can get back to work, SSI exists to provide income to people whose blindness or other disability makes it difficult for them to ever work.

To qualify for SSD, which usually offers higher monthly payments, you must have a history of work and of making Social Security payments in order to become insured for benefits. The monthly SSD benefit is based on your Social Security earnings record. With SSI, your monthly payment will be based on need and vary up to the maximum federal benefit rate. Oklahoma also makes supplemental payments to citizens on SSI.

If you receive SSD, you will qualify for Medicare after two years of receiving disability benefits. If you receive SSI, you will most likely qualify for Medicaid.

Not everyone who qualifies for SSI or SSD will receive benefits the first time they apply. For certain injuries — particularly injuries that are difficult to see in medical imaging, such as like head injuries, fibromyalgia, or severe mental illness — applicants almost never receive benefits on their first go-around. Working with a seasoned Social Security attorney can help you get the benefits you deserve when you need them, decreasing the likelihood of initial or subsequent denials by the Social Security Administration. Contact us today if you have a case to learn how we can help you.