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Ghitterman, Ghitterman & Feld

Relentlessly Protecting California Workers' Rights Since 1956

What’s The Difference Between SSDI and SSI?

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Many people who are in the process of applying for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA) are confused as to whether they may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability (SSDI) or both. While both measure disability the same way, there are many differences between these two types of benefits, including who qualifies for them, the amounts, and other benefits that can be received.

What are SSDI benefits and who qualifies for them?

SSDI benefits, also referred to as Title II benefits, reduce the SSA retirement age for disabled taxpayers who are no longer able to  earn enough to support themselves. This is known as Suitable Gainful Activity (SGA). The minimum amount is calculated each year.  To qualify for SSDI benefits, you will need to have obtained a certain amount of work credits based on taxable income during your work history. This means that people who have never engaged in paid work or have not paid Social Security taxes (such as people who have always been paid under the table) are not eligible for SSDI benefits.  Additionally, your disability must have arisen within a specified period of time from when you last had taxable income.

Another difference between SSDI and SSI benefits is that SSDI benefits can be paid to eligible family members in some cases, such as your spouse and children, and unlike SSI benefits, you will need to wait 5 months after the disability date to receive your benefits.

Upon approval to receive SSD benefits, you will be eligible for Medicare 24 months after the date that your disability began.  This is a significant benefit in that Medicare eligibility can provide thousands, and some times tens of thousands of dollars of savings for medical insurance and costs.

What are SSI benefits and who qualifies for them?

Unlike qualifying for SSDI benefits, qualifying for SSI benefits does not require any work history. SSI benefits provide support to people with disabilities, regardless of their age and work history, and are funded by general tax revenue.

However, there are income and asset restrictions for SSI benefits. As of 2021, you must maintain resources of $2000 or less as an individual or $3000 or less as a family. Resources are not simply dollars in the bank, but can include any assets you may maintain in your ownership. There are certain excludable assets, so you may need the assistance of an experienced attorney and/or accountant to help you address your resources if this is of concern.

Additionally, SSI benefits often are smaller payments than SSDI benefits and are only payable to the beneficiary only going back to the date of your SSI application unlike SSDI benefits which can back date almost to the date of onset.

Once you are approved to receive SSI benefits, while not eligible to receive Medicare benefits before age 65, you may be entitled to other State medical care benefits.

What happens if I am denied Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income?

Many people are denied Social Security benefits when they first apply—in fact, around 2/3rds of disabled claimants are denied benefits the first time they apply. We understand that being denied benefits can be stressful, especially since you may be relying on these benefits to support yourself and your family. If you have been denied, you need the assistance of an experienced and compassionate attorney. At Ghitterman, Ghitterman & Feld, we can help you appeal that denial and relentlessly advocate on your behalf to ensure you get the benefits you deserve. We understand how stressful this long process can be, so we will take on the burden of gathering additional medical, educational, and social evidence needed to support a successful claim. We handhold claimants through the complicated process up through a hearing, the Appeals Council, and sometimes even to Federal Court.  If you’ve been denied Social Security Disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income, please reach out to us by calling (805) 243-2179 or by filling out our Contact Us form. We are here to inform you of your rights and fight for you to receive the benefits you deserve.

The law firm of Ghitterman, Ghitterman and Feld helps employees in the areas of workers’ compensation, social security disability, disability retirement, personal injury, labor, and employment issues. Founded in 1956, the firm now has offices in Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, Kern County, Tulare County, and Fresno County. The firm is proud to continue this tradition of securing all available rights for the injured and disabled in our community. For more information about what we do, how we might be about to help, or resources, see our website at

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