The Social Security Administration handles more than just disability and regular retirement payouts. In fact, Social Security is in charge of many different programs.
Understanding the difference between the programs is key to getting through the application process. For instance, many people confuse Social Security Disability (SSD) with supplemental Security income (SSI). According to Special Needs Answers, a key difference between these two programs is that SSI is means-tested while SSD is an entitlement program.
What is SSI?
SSI is specifically for individuals who are blind or otherwise disabled in a way that makes working impossible. Many SSI recipients have never been able to participate in the workforce due to disability. Generally speaking, it is much more difficult to qualify for SSI as compared to SSD. SSI is means-tested, which means that it is income dependent and has strict financial requirements.
Essentially, if you have spent the majority of your life working and a disability has recently made it impossible for you to continue, it is unlikely that you will qualify for SSI. SSI also has a lower average payout as compared to SSD.
What is SSD?
To qualify for SSD, you must have been working for at least 10 years and paying into Social Security during this time. (In the event of disabied adult individuals who previously relied on retired or deceased workers for income there are different criteria for SSD eligibility.) Even if you were a high-income earner, you are still eligible for SSD benefits if you meet the criteria. This is what makes SSD an entitlement program rather than means-tested.
Additionally, if you receive SSD benefits, you will be eligible for Medicare coverage after 2 years on the program. This differs from SSI in that SSI gives the recipient access to Medicaid benefits.