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Social Security Q&A: Disability payment types differ

A look at the difference between Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income disability.
Modified: May 17, 2013 at 11:39 pm •  Published: May 19, 2013

Q: What is the difference between Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability?

A: Social Security administers two major programs that pay disability benefits. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments are based on your work and earnings, while SSI disability payments are based on financial need.

Both disability programs require that you have a severe medical impairment — or combination of impairments — that prevents you from working for at least a year or is expected to result in death.

Social Security taxes are paid by workers, employers and self-employed persons. These taxes fund disability benefits under SSDI.

To be eligible for a Social Security benefit, you must earn enough credits to be insured. We pay disability benefits to blind or disabled workers, widow(er)s, or adults disabled since childhood who are otherwise eligible. We base monthly disability benefits on the Social Security earnings record of the insured worker.

SSI is a program financed through general revenues, not Social Security taxes.

We pay SSI disability benefits to adults or children who are disabled or blind, have limited income and resources, meet the living arrangement requirements and are otherwise eligible.

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