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SSI vs SSDI – What is Supplemental Security Income?

For more details about applying for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income, or if you have additional questions, feel free to visit our website at And don’t forget to look at some of our other videos at

Government programs help people in need, but they can be difficult to understand difficult to navigate. Two programs in particular are often confused because their initials are similar: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

In this video, HensonFuerst Attorneys partner David Henson talks about the difference between SSDI and SSI, who is eligible to apply, whether you can apply for both programs, and how to improve your odds of receiving the benefits you’re entitled to.

*** Principal Office of Henson & Fuerst, PA: 2501 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh, NC 27607 ***

Hi, David Henson here, I get a lot of questions about Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income—what are these programs, who qualifies for benefits and what are the differences in the programs.

First, let’s talk about Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI. What is it? SSDI is a federal system designed as a safety net for people who, after years of paying into the system, become too injured or sick to work any longer. When you are employed, you pay into the federal system throughout your professional career–your employer is required to take out SSDI premiums every month. If you look at your check stub, you’ll see the amount that is taken out as your personal contribution to the social security system.

Second, who qualifies under SSDI? When you apply, the Federal Government looks at two things to determine your eligibility: 1) have you worked enough “quarter credits,” or said another way- have you paid enough INTO the system in order to receive benefits OUT OF the system; and, 2) Do you have a disability—that is, do you have a medical condition, injury, or illness that will prevent you from working for at least twelve months. If you meet the criteria, then you are generally qualified to receive benefits. The hard part, however, is convincing the Social Security system that you are in fact disabled.

Now, the other system under the federal government is Supplemental Security Income, or what is known as SSI. SSI is a federal income supplement program that has nothing to do with whether you have ever worked or how much you have paid into the system. It is assistance that is funded through general tax revenues of the government and pays people based on need.

SSI is designed to help the aged, blind and those who are sick or disabled and have little or no income. The goal is to provide money to meet basic needs for food, clothing and shelter. It is only available to those who fall under certain financial thresholds.

Now, frequently, when people apply for SSDI benefits, they will also apply for SSI benefits, depending on their family and economic situation. If you meet the application criteria then we strongly encourage our clients to apply for both. If you are awarded benefits for both, generally the SSI payment will be much less than the SSDI payment, but this is only a general rule and varies from case to case.

Unfortunately, the process of applying for and receiving Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income benefits is long and complicated, especially if you are sick or injured. Just when you need someone to help take care of YOU, you’ll find that the process can be exhausting. The federal government makes you jump through a lot of hoops. As a lawyer, my job is to help you navigate that process—to help you understand and deliver all the information the government needs in the fastest, best manner possible… AND to make sure that you get all the benefits to which you’re entitled.

If you have additional question please check out some of our other social security benefits videos or the social security section of our website at . If there is a question that I have not answered, send me an email at, and I will try and get a video to address your question.

This is David Henson with HensonFuerst law office. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.