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I get asked a lot about SSI and SSDI. I was not involved in the process to obtaining benefits for my brother. They were already established by the time I became his rep payee. Hopefully the following information is useful.

What is the difference between SSI and SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, is a federal government benefits program funded by payroll taxes. It provides financial aid to qualifying adults with disabilities if they have earned 20 work credits in the last 10 years. People who can prove they have a mental or physical condition that resulted from an injury and restricts or prevents them from working are usually eligible for SSDI.

Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is also a federal benefits program but is funded by general taxes instead of payroll taxes. It helps children and adults who meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Disabled
  • Blind
  • Age 65 or older with no work history

The program is open to those with little to no income who are limited in their ability to hold down regular employment. It’s similar to Social Security benefits, but qualifying is based on disability as opposed to income.

Who qualifies for each program?

SSDI is for people who have worked up until recently and have been employed in positions that are covered by Social Security. The disability must meet the SSA’s definition of a disability, and it has to prevent you from working for at least a year.

Work credits earned from wages or self-employment are also required, but the income needed for SSDI changes every year. You can earn up to four work credits each year, and you can get all four credits after you’ve earned more than the minimum income for the year.

For example, in 2021, a credit was awarded after a worker earned $1,470 in wages. After earning $5,880 in 2021, a worker received all four credits.

SSI is for those who are over the age of 65 or unable to work due to disability or blindness. You must have income from earnings or pensions and have little in the way of resources to help you survive. The program is not funded through payroll taxes, unlike SSDI, and you’re not required to have work credits when applying.

How to Apply?

The applications for SSDI and SSI are the same and are available on the Social Security Administration’s website. Follow the instructions and fill out the form to the best of your abilities. It’s better to complete as much of the form as you can than to leave areas blank.

What will you need?

1. Date and place of birth

2. Marriage and divorce

3. Names date of birth of children who are disabled prior to age 22 or are under 18 and unmarried or attending school full time

4. U.S. Military service

5. Employer details for the current year and two years prior

6. Direct deposit information

7. Alternate contact

8. List of medical conditions

9. Information about doctors, healthcare professionals, hospitals, and clinics. (I have faxed in my medical records for clients before).

10. Related medical records from non-medical sources

11. Job history

12. Education and trainings

Check list

Denial Reasons


  • Are you currently employed and earning more than $1,310 a month?
  • Is your condition severe enough to limit your ability to do basic work activities?
  • Is your condition on the list of disabling conditions?
  • Can you do the work you did before your disabling injury?
  • Can you do other kinds of work despite your disability?


  • Your disability won’t last for at least a year.
  • You have an outstanding warrant for your arrest.
  • You were convicted of a crime.
  • You committed fraud to obtain SSDI or SSI.

Disability Qualifications – please use this link for list of qualifications

Note for Caregivers

Caretakers, or caregivers, can apply on behalf of a family member or friend, but the person who is to receive the benefits has to sign the application and other related documents. The only way a caregiver can sign is if they have power of attorney or are a legal guardian. SSDI/SSI will not pay the wages of a caregiver, but the recipient can use the money for wages and other costs of caregiving if they so choose.

**please note this blog post is not legal advice. It is for information only**

This blog post information was provided by Marasco & Nesselbush

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