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What’s the Difference Between SSD and SSI?

Published on March 3rd, 2021

If you are confused about the difference between Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you are in good company. Unless you or someone in your family is already receiving one of these government benefits, the two named programs seem indistinguishable.

There are several significant differences between SSD and SSI:

  • Social Security Disability is only available to workers who have been employed for a minimum number of years or earned a particular minimum amount of money from work during that time.
  • Supplemental Security Income is a social safety-net program administered by the federal government to give financial support to low-income people with limited resources who are elderly, blind, or disabled and who do not qualify for SSD because they lack the necessary work history.
  • SSD is available to qualified workers regardless of their available financial resources. There is no means test. Workers earn entitlement to this program through their working years.
  • SSI has strict regulations on the income a recipient can earn while getting benefits. The person’s “countable” financial resources must also be sparse to qualify for benefits under SSI. (Some resources are not counted for the means test.)
  • Medicaid: SSI recipients are eligible for Medicaid healthcare coverage immediately upon being approved for benefits. SSD recipients gain eligibility for Medicare after a designated period of disability.
  • SSD has a 5-month waiting period during which the applicant is not entitled to benefits. Benefits begin to be paid in the sixth month from when the disability is determined to have begun.
  • SSI has no waiting period during which payments are excluded.
  • Money for SSD payments comes from the Social Security Disability Trust Fund that is funded by payroll deductions from American workers. By contrast, money for SSI payments is paid directly from the general treasury of the federal government.

Despite Differences, SSD and SSI Share Some Features

As we set out in the previous section, there are many important differences between the SSI program and the SSD program. But there are many similarities as well. What matters to most applicants is whether they are eligible for SSI or SSDI, neither, or both. Once the applications are submitted, both programs apply many of the same measures to determine if the claim will be approved.

Both SSI and SSD Determine Qualified Disability by the Same Standard

The Social Security Administration applies the same standard to determine whether an applicant’s claimed disability meets the definition of a qualified disability.

Both SSD and SSI define a disability as a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, including emotional or learning problems, that renders the person unable to perform a substantial gainful activity. The impairment must last or be expected to last at least 12 months or lead to the applicant’s death.

To determine who does and who does not have a qualifying impairment that meets this standard, the Social Security Administration (SSA) created a review process requiring every applicant to provide supporting medical documents.

The SSA also created a list of illnesses, diseases, conditions, and disabling disorders from which a claimant might be suffering. For each of these listed impairments, the SSA identified a set of threshold symptoms or test results that would qualify a claimant under that listed impairment.

Coexisting Impairments

It is important to note that not every claimant fits into one of these “listed” impairments. Instead, a person applying for either SSD or SSI benefits has a combination of impairments, perhaps each alone not necessarily severe enough to qualify by itself, but together, the cumulative effect of the complex of disorders may well be sufficient to qualify the sufferer for benefits.

A Lawyer Is Key to Maximizing Your Chance of Success

Anyone who is applying for Social Security Disability or Social Security Insurance wants to receive the benefits they deserve as speedily as possible. To move your case along without unnecessary delay, every claimant should get an experienced Social Security law expert to handle everything for them.

Attorney Daniel Berger specializes in representing SSD and SSI claimants and has been winning his clients’ benefits for the past 25 years. Daniel Berger has gathered a talented team of other lawyers who concentrate their professional careers in Social Security law. When you search for a New York Disability Lawyer on the web, you will find Daniel Berger’s team at NYDisability.com.

Denied SSD Benefits or SSI Benefits? — Appeal, Appeal, Appeal.

If you were denied Social Security Disability benefits or Social Security Insurance benefits, contact our law office right away. Don’t be discouraged about being denied. More than 60% of initial claims are denied in both programs. You need to appeal, and you need to have experienced experts prepare, file, and argue your appeal if you want to increase your chances of winning.

The appeal process requires thorough knowledge of the law, the appellate procedures, and the best practices to follow to be granted the benefits you need. The appeal process takes time. You don’t want to have your case delayed because you or your advocate missed something. Get a professional.


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