I regularly get questions from readers of my blog and web site about SSI, SSDI and the differences between the two. The biggest difference: you will be eligible for SSDI if you have worked and paid Social Security taxes into the system. Generally to be fully insured, you need to have worked and paid taxes for 5 out of the last 10 years.
If you have worked consistently for 10 years then stopped working, therefore, you “insurability” will follow you for approximately 5 years.
One of the pieces of information I always look for is my client’s “date last insured” for SSDI. If you have not worked regularly or if there is a big gap between dates that you worked, your date last insured could be an issue. In order to recover SSDI, your onset date has to be earlier than your date last insured.
This, by the way, is why part time work and large gaps between work attempts can create issues. When you add a lot of zero dollar quarters into the calculation, the date last insured will get closer and closer to the present.
The amount you received from SSDI is a function of what you paid in. If your annual earnings were in the $75,000 range your monthly SSDI benefit will be in the $2,000 + range. If your annual earnings were in the $20,000 range you are more likely to be looking at $1,000 or $1,250 per month.
SSI, by contrast, is a welfare program that pays a statutory amount (around $670) to individuals who meet the definition of disability but who are not insured for SSDI. The problem with SSI – household income serves to reduce the benefit, sometimes dollar for dollar. So, if your spouse is working and earning $50,000 annually, your SSI benefit will be totally offset.
Here is a question I received from one of my readers:
my husband was recently given a fully favorable decision and is insured and eligible for ssdi. i would like to know what they use to decide whether you get ssdi or ssi considering ssi is so much less than ssdi.do you get ssdi automtically if you’re insured or are there other factors.
My answer: your eligibility for SSDI is solely based on your insured status. There are some instances where you can get both. If your SSDI benefit is low (say $500) and you are eligible for your full SSI benefit, you would get $500 from SSDI and $270 from SSI.
Also, SSDI claims are subject to a 5 month “waiting period” whereas SSI claims are not. In some cases, you can get SSI for the 5 months, then SSDI thereafter.
Jonathan Ginsberg represents Social Security disability claimants in Georgia. In practice for over 29 years, Jonathan publishes a widely known disability blog, a podcast and several disability web sites. In 2004, Jonathan published a "how to" book about Social Security disability called the Disability Answer Guide. Jonathan lives with his wife and 2 children in Atlanta.