Knowing the Difference Between Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income

Attorney Wade Coye

Wade Coye, Disability Attorney

Applying for disability benefits in Florida, through the SSA , can be a daunting task for a disabled person and their loved ones. The hardest part, in my opinion, is figuring out the distinction between the different programs, and deciding which you would qualify for. The two programs that benefit a disabled person who can no longer work (SSDI and SSI) have many factors, such as eligibility, payment, and access to medical coverage, which divide them.


Social Security Disability insurance, or SSDI, is an income based program, that serves those who have become disabled after working for a certain amount of time. To qualify, an applicant needs 40 work credits, 20 of which must have been attained in the ten years prior to the disability.  There are special circumstances for young applicants. If you are under the age of 24, you can qualify for SSDI by earning 6 credits in a 3-year period before disability. It still averages to 2 credits a year, but takes into account that it is impossible for someone that age to have worked 10 years already. Between the ages of 24 and 31, you must earn enough credits to account for working half the time between the age of 21 and the time you become disabled. There are no benefits for partial or short-term disability, which is defined as anything shorter than a year. To qualify as a long-term disability, you must be unable to return to the work you previously did, and be unable to adjust to any other work because of your condition. The SSA has several job retraining programs to help younger workers adjust to a new job, if they can’t return to the work they previously did.

Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, on the other hand, is not based on prior work. To qualify for SSI, you must be aged (65 or older), legally blind, or a child. You must also have limited access to regular income and resources.


The amount of benefits you receive through SSDI is based on previous earning record, Unlike SSI, which is need-based. This varies until the national maximum is met. This maximum is currently set at $698 a month for an individual, and $1048 a month for a couple.

Access to Medical Coverage

There is also a difference in the type of medical coverage available for each program. People receiving benefits from Social Security Disability Insurance have access to Medicare, while if you receive Supplemental Security Income, you can apply for Medicaid.

Applying for Social Security benefits can be a confusing and frustrating time, especially if you know very little about the different programs. Having the advice of an experienced Social Security attorney can help to navigate through applying. If you are having trouble with applying for SSDI or SSI, or need help appealing a denial, contact your local Central Florida Social Security attorneys here at the Coye Law Firm.

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