Applying for disability benefits can be disorienting enough on its own. What makes it more complicated is that there are multiple federal programs that offer assistance for disabilities. It is paramount to apply for the correct one.

Two of the most well-known federal programs for people living with disabilities are Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. According to the National Council on Aging, the major difference between the two is how the government determines eligibility for these programs.

What is Social Security Disability Insurance? 

Social Security disability insurance, or SSDI, is for individuals who currently suffer from a disability and also possess a work history which qualifies them for this program. Most commonly, the government will judge an individual for eligibility based on their own work history, but it is possible for an SSDI recipient to receive benefits based on a qualifying family member.

SSDI also has a higher payout as compared to SSI payouts: roughly double the amount as of 2017. This is due to the work history credits involved with SSDI.

What is Supplemental Security Income? 

Supplemental security income, or SSI, is for individuals of any age who are of low financial means and suffer from disabilities. The federal payouts for SSI are very low, and usually recipients supplement this with aid from State programs.

It is possible for an individual to qualify for both SSDI and SSI in some circumstances, particularly if you have very low means. However, if you have a disability and a qualifying work history, it is most likely that you are only eligible for SSDI.