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Differences Between SSI and SSDI

Because Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are both paid to those who meet Social Security’s definition of disabled, we often discuss them together. The qualifications for the two programs, however, are vastly different. Here are the main differences.

SSI Requires Limited Means, SSDI is a Federal Insurance Benefit

SSI helps those who would otherwise have difficulty meeting basic living expenses. Because SSI is a needs-based program, SSI recipients are subject to specific income and resource limits.

Income. The income limit for SSI is based on the federal benefit rate (FBR). The federal benefit rate represents both the income limit and the maximum monthly payment. “Countable income” is subtracted from the Federal Benefit Rate to arrive at the monthly payment. The FBRs for 2015 are $733 for an eligible individual, $1,100 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse. In principle, an individual’s income is subtracted from the $733 amount to arrive at that individual’s actual benefit amount. It is important to note, however, that not all income is “countable income”, so the individual’s actual income from SSI and other sources may well exceed the FBR amount.

Assets. To receive SSI, the claimant’s “countable resources must not be worth more than $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple. Resources include cash, stocks and bonds, bank accounts, real estate (except the home the claimant lives in) and vehicles (except one vehicle used for transportation), household goods and personal effects.

SSDI, on the other hand, places no limits on income or resources to qualify. SSDI is paid out of the Social Security trust fund to those who have worked and paid FICA taxes for the required number of years. Even highly paid individuals are entitled to collect SSDI if they meet the federal definition of disability.

 The Benefit Amounts Vary

As described above, an SSI recipient’s maximum monthly benefit is $733 beginning in 2015. The monthly benefit for a SSDI recipient will vary based on the lifetime earnings.  The average SSDI benefit is around $1150 per month.  The maximum SSDI benefit (as of 2015) is $2,663 monthly.

The Health Care Programs are Different: Medicare versus Medicaid 

Medicaid is a joint state and federal health care program. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia provide Medicaid eligibility to people eligible for SSI benefits. In these States, the SSI application serves also as the Medicaid application, and Medicaid eligibility begins the same month as SSI eligibility. Missouri and Illinois are among states in which Medicaid eligibility is not tied to SSI eligibility, and SSI claimants must submit a separate application for Medicaid or, as it is known in Missouri, MO HealthNet.

SSDI beneficiaries are eligible to receive Medicare two years after the date they are found disabled. Medicare is a federal health insurance program that covers most hospital care and most, but not all, primary medical care.


Tom Lemley

Bridgepoint Law Firm, LLC

75 W. Lockwood Ave., Suite 222

St. Louis, MO 63119

TEL: 314.925.0730

FAX: 314.735.4391

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements. is operated by Bridgepoint Law Firm, LLC, a St. Louis law firm serving clients in applying for and appealing denials of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit claims throughout St. Louis City and County, including the Missouri communities of Ballwin, Brentwood, Chesterfield, Clayton, Creve Coeur, Des Peres, Glendale, Kirkwood, Ladue, Maplewood, Maryland Heights, Olivette, Richmond Heights, University City, Webster Groves, Wildwood and Town & Country, and the eastern Missouri counties of St. Charles, Franklin and Jefferson, as well as the Southern Illinois counties of Madison, St. Clair and Monroe, including the communities of East St. Louis, Belleville, Granite City, Alton, Edwardsville, Collinsville and Fairview Heights.