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What makes SSDI different from SSI?

Whether residents in New Jersey were born with a disability or acquired one later in life due to an injury or an illness, the Social Security Administration offers these individuals two different programs that could provide a disabled applicant with benefits that could help address financial hardships related to the disabling condition. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) both aim to supplement the incomes of those unable to work because of a medical disability, each program serves two distinct populations.

What makes SSDI different from SSI? One major difference is eligibility. SSDI is only available to applicants that have paid into the system through their taxable income. An applicant must have obtained enough work credits to utilize and qualify for SSDI benefits. In other words, SSDI is available for individuals who used to work, but no longer can because of a physical or mental impairment.

On the other hand, SSI is viewed as a safety net. It serves those that do not qualify for SSDI and have limited means to cover their bills, basic needs and the cost of living. In other words, SSI was designed to assist low-income applicant who have not worked enough to earn the number of work credits necessary to qualify for SSDI benefits.

In order to be eligible for SSDI benefits, an applicant must have earned 20 or more "quarters of coverage" over the past 10 years. Additionally, the applicant must be fully insured. An applicant must suffer a physical or mental disability that is expected to last 12 months or until death. SSDI benefits can be paid to disabled or blind workers. However, they are also payable to their children, surviving spouses and adults who have been disables since he or she was a child.

When an applicant applies for SSDI benefits, he or she must wait 5 months. This allows the SSA to validate the situation. It should also be noted that benefits received are based on the insured worker's Social Security earning record. This means that the higher a worker's salary was the higher the monthly benefits they will receive.

If you are a worker suffering a disabling condition, it is important to understand how SSDI benefits could assist you. The application process can seem daunting and lengthy. But, legal professionals in Social Security law could help applicants with their initial claim or even an appeal.

Source:, "What is the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?," accessed on March 19, 2017

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