Social Security Benefits


Social Security Benefits
What is the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments?

SSDI and SSI payments are both programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) but they have different eligibility criteria.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

  • SSDI provides income to adults who are unable to work due to disability and have contributed into Social Security through Social Security payroll taxes. To be eligible, the work record of the person that the benefits are paid under, must have enough work credits. The number of work credits needed increases based upon the person’s age when they apply for benefits
  • In addition to medical factors, eligibility is not based on savings; it is based upon the person’s ability to work and earn less than $1,550 a month, for 12 months.
  • Family members of the disabled individual may also be eligible for dependent benefits.
  • Individuals who are approved for SSDI receive Medicare after 24 months. There are exceptions for ALS disease and end stage renal disease so that Medicare starts without wait.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

  • SSI is a needs-based program that provides financial assistance to children and to adults who are disabled or blind and have limited income and resources. The program also pays a benefit to individuals age 65 and older who do not have a disability. They may or may not qualify for retirement benefits but if their income and savings are low enough, it may be supplemented with SSI.
  • In most states, eligibility for SSI includes Medicaid eligibility. In some states a person who is SSI eligible needs to apply for Medicaid.

Some individuals may receive SSDI and SSI if their income and resources are limited.

I have a disability, am I eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) encourages people to apply directly online or to make an appointment to file by phone as soon as the person becomes disabled.

A person who has a severe physical or mental disability that has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least one year or more or result in death may apply if they also are limited in their ability to work and earn countable income of more than $1,550 a month or more than $2,590 if blind.  Unlike some organizations or government programs, SSA does not pay benefits for partial disability or for short term disability of less than 12 months.

There are two programs under which SSA pays a monthly benefit based on a disability:

The first, Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI) paid to: (1) adults (called wage earners) who are ages 18 up to full retirement age (ranges from 65-67) and have worked long enough and recently enough and paid Social Security taxes; and (2) to a wage earner’s eligible dependent children (called Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB)) age 18 and over whose disability began before age 22; or to (3) a surviving disabled widow/widower (DWB) who is ages 50-60 and meets certain technical rules of eligibility.

The second program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits are paid to children and adults who have limited income and limited resources. The parent’s income and resources (savings) are considered for children under age 18. After age 18 the parent’s income and resources (savings) are no longer considered.

    • If the SSI applicant has more than $2,000 in countable resources, they may want to consider opening an ABLE account for depositing cash resources. ABLE savings up to $100,000 are not counted as a resource for SSI.

If you have questions about which benefit you may qualify for, you may want to telephone SSA before filing or starting the process at (800) 772-1213.

I have a disability, how do I apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits?

There are several ways that you can apply for benefits or start the process:

  • SSDI
    • Apply Online for Disability Benefits to file the SSDI application. At this time, you cannot file for benefits as a Childhood Disability Beneficiary (CDB) or Disabled Widow Benefits (DWB)online; or
    • Schedule an appointment at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
    • In all cases, complete the Adult Disability Report online in advance. This will speed up the process.
  • SSI
    • You can get started but you cannot file the SSI application online. The link will allow you to set up your appointment to file online instead of calling the office; or
    • Schedule an appointment at 1-800-772-1213 to apply for SSI disability benefits. SSA will decide if you can come into the office to file or whether you can file by phone interview. There are in-office restrictions due to COVID. If someone is deaf or hard of hearing, they may call the toll-free TTY number 1-800-325-0778 to review their options.

Learn what you need when applying for Disability Benefits including information about yourself, about your disability condition, doctor contact information and any employment information for the last two years. Once you have applied, you can check the status of your application online or you can appeal the decision if you are denied benefits, within 60 days of getting a denial letter.

To help you get ready for your disability interview or online application, review the Disability Starter Kit.  There is a kit for adults and a kit for children.

How are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits calculated and how can I get an idea of how much I would receive?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) looks to see how much a person has earned and paid in payroll taxes (FICA) taxes over their years of working. This is called an earnings test.  A person must have sufficient credits to be eligible or the person is automatically denied benefits before SSA even evaluates the disability. The number of credits needed depends on their age and type of benefit. The longer a person worked, the more they paid in taxes and the younger their age, possibly the higher the benefit. SSA has an online  Benefit Calculator that can be used to understand your benefit amount.

You can also create a my Social Security account to help you estimate future benefits or manage benefits you already receive.

What is the maximum monthly payment for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) I could receive?

In 2024, the maximum monthly SSI payment is $943 for an individual and $1,415 for a couple who are married and both disabled. Your amount may be lower based on your income, certain family members’ income, your living arrangement, or other factors.

The amount may be higher if you live in a state that supplements an SSI payment. Most states supplement the payment but six do not: Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The amount of the supplement depends upon whether a person pays for their fair share of rent and if they live alone or with others.

Do I qualify for Social Security spouse's benefits?

If you don’t have enough Social Security credits to qualify for benefits on your own record, you may be able to receive benefits on your spouse’s record. To qualify for spouse’s benefits, you must be one of the following: Either 62 years of age or older, or any age and have in your care a child younger than age 16, or who has a disability and is entitled to receive benefits on your spouse’s record.

Can I return to work while getting Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits?

Yes! In fact, the  Social Security Administration (SSA) publishes the Red Book to share their incentives and supports for people who choose to work to reach an  employment goal to secure their financial well-being. SSA has special rules that allow disability beneficiaries to work without jeopardizing their payments or Medicare/Medicaid benefits.

The LEAD Center, under the Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, also shares their support and provides a path forward depending upon  where you are in your employment journey:  Preparing for a JobStarting a JobMaintaining a JobChanging or Losing a Job, and Retiring from a Job.

I applied for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits but was denied. What can I do?

If you don’t agree with a decision the Social Security Administration (SSA) made, you have opportunities to appeal the decision. The process starts by asking the SSA to reconsider their decision and it must be requested within 60 days of the date the notice of denial is received.  If you are denied again then you can continue through the appeals process by requesting a hearing with a Social Security Administrative Law judge.

Can an SSI recipient refuse to apply for unemployment compensation or other benefits if they might be eligible because they think they will lose their SSI and have to reapply once the payments stop?

Contact your SSA office to restart SSI when unemployment compensation stops.

Does my living arrangement affect how much SSI (Supplemental Security Income) I get?
What is SSI’s ISM “in-kind support and maintenance” and what are the recent changes about food and shelter costs?
I am homeless and need help applying for Social Security or SSI benefits. Where can I find help?
If I receive retirement or SSDI benefits and I die, will my adult child who has a disability and receives SSI payments get a higher payment from my work record?
I am working and my child, under age 18, has a disability. Can I apply for SSI payments and Medicaid to help cover their extra costs of living with a disability?
I am raising my grandchild, is there a way to get help for my grandchild’s living expenses?
When am I eligible for retirement benefits?
What is SSA or the Social Security Administration?
How do I reach the Social Security Administration?
Do I have to visit a Social Security office to apply for benefits or can I apply online?
Does the Social Security Administration have a Spanish-language website that provides information about their programs and services?
How do I change or correct my name on my Social Security card?
Are you waiting for a hearing with the Social Security Administration?

Learn more about SSA telephone and video hearings.

I received an overpayment from SSA, what should I do?

Do not ignore an overpayment notice. If you do nothing, SSA will start to collect the overpayment from your benefits. Starting March 25, 2024, SSA will withhold 10% of monthly benefits to recover the overpayment. For most beneficiaries they will approve repayment plans of up to 60 months or 5 years. To qualify, you would have to give them a verbal summary of your income, resources and expenses. If you receive SSI, you would not have to do this. SSA is also making it easier to ask SSA to forgive the overpayment and they are in the process of developing their policy now. Please visit for further updates. 

Where can I go to find programs to help me lead a more financially independent life?
I currently receive benefits from the Social Security Administration; however I am interested in working, is there someone to support me in entering the workforce?
How can I find information on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in my state?

Learn more about whether TANF is available in your state, which qualifications make you eligible for assistance and how to apply.

Are there any programs for non-citizens or refugees who do not qualify for TANF, SSI or Medicaid, but who meet income and resource standards to receive assistance?

Find assistance for eligible non-U.S. citizens.

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