Anybody looking into federal benefits has probably seen two initialisms: SSI and SSDI. Despite using nearly identical letters and being overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA), these two programs actually have little in common.

Here is a brief explanation of what SSI and SSDI actually are, as well as what they offer.

SSI: Supplemental Security Income

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a financial safety net for certain individuals that need a little extra help. Monthly payments are meant to help cover basic needs, such as food, clothing and housing.

Who is eligible? First, you have to be either:

  • At least 65 years old
  • Blind
  • Disabled

In addition, you must have “limited” income, and the value of your countable resources (which excludes certain items, such as your home and a primary vehicle) cannot exceed $2,000 if filing as an individual, or $3,000 as a couple.

The monthly payment amount is determined by the current Federal Benefit rate, minus any countable income. For 2020, the maximum individual monthly payment is $783 (or $1,175, for couples).

Because this money does not come from Social Security taxes, there is no minimum work credits requirement.

SSDI: Social Security Disability Insurance

SSDI stands for Social Security Disability Insurance. This is for people with a substantial work history that became disabled and are unable to support themselves for the foreseeable future.

To be eligible, you must have earned a certain number of work credits by contributing to the Social Security fund over a long period of time. You must also meet the SSA’s definition of disabled. The agency looks at:

  • Whether you are currently working
  • Whether your condition is “severe” and will keep you from working for at least 12 months
  • Whether your condition is on the list of disabling conditions
  • Your ability to continue doing the work you had been doing
  • Your ability to do other types of work

Monthly payments under SSDI are calculated based on your average lifetime earnings, with other income – such as workers’ compensation payments – also taken into account.