Man holding a social security document.

Is it harder to get SSI or SSDI? While both have specific requirements for approval, it’s usually easier to get approved for SSDI because of a credible work history and health plan.

What Is the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?

In Illinois, an individual who develops a disability because of an injury or illness can file a claim for disability benefits through two federal programs. They are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are the largest of several Federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities.

Is it harder to get SSI or SSDI? There are major differences between the two programs that impact how to get approved for disability. Each program defines disability requirements and eligibility and approval for benefits based on specific factors. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is available to workers who have a credible work history and have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits, while Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits are available to low-income individuals who have previously worked or never worked.

SSDI Benefits

Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) pays disability benefits to workers and workers’ families when the worker has a credible work history and has accumulated a sufficient number of work credits. The worker must also have worked long enough to pay Social Security taxes. This program is financed with Social Security taxes paid by workers, employers, and self-employed persons.

To be eligible for SSDI benefits, a worker must earn sufficient credits based on a taxable work history to be “insured” for Social Security purposes. If benefits are approved, they are payable to (1) disabled or blind workers under 65 years old, (2) their spouse or widower, (3) their children, and (4) adults disabled since childhood. The amount of monthly disability benefits is based on the Social Security earnings record of the insured worker. After receiving disability insurance benefits for two years, the worker will automatically get Medicare coverage.

SSI Benefits

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability is based on an individual’s financial needs rather than the individual’s work history and accumulated work credits. SSI benefits are available to low-income individuals who either have a prior work history or who have no work history at all. This program is financed through general tax revenues and does not relate to work credits.

To be eligible for SSI benefits, a person must be a United States citizen or national and have limited income and resources for living requirements. Benefits are payable to people who meet these conditions and are (1) adults who are 65 years old or older, (2) adults who are disabled or blind, and (3) children who are disabled or blind. The monthly benefit payment varies up to the maximum federal benefit rate, which may be supplemented by the state. In most states, beneficiaries are also automatically eligible for Medicaid.

Can You Collect Both SSDI and SSI in Illinois?

If you have a disability and are approved for disability benefits, you can collect both SSDI and SSI at the same time, if your SSDI benefit payments are low. Since SSDI benefits are based on work history and accumulated work credits, this may occur if your wages from employment were low, or you did not work much in recent years. If your SSDI payment is less than $934 (or $1,391 for a couple), you could get a small SSI payment in addition to your SSDI payment, to raise it up to the SSI amount. For instance, if your monthly SSDI benefits payment is $450, and you have no other income, you could receive a monthly SSI benefit payment for $484 to raise it to your allowed monthly benefit of $954, however, you must still meet the SSI requirements to receive concurrent benefits.

Concurrent Benefits

In Illinois, is it harder to get SSI or SSDI? Can you get concurrent benefits? When you receive SSDI and SSI disability benefits at the same time, it’s called receiving “concurrent benefits.” Whether you apply for SSDI or SSI, the definition of medical disability is the same for both programs, so it is easy to qualify medically for both at the same time. When you apply for disability benefits, you do not have to request concurrent benefits. If your income, including your anticipated SSDI payment, is less than the federal benefit rate, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will automatically consider your application for SSI. If approved, you will receive two different checks for SSDI and SSI on different payment dates.

How Much Can You Get From SSI and SSDI?

How much do you get for disability benefits? The amount of your SSI and SSDI monthly benefit payment depends on a number of factors based on SSA requirements.

SSI Payments

The maximum monthly SSI payment for 2023 is $914 for an individual and $1,371 for a couple. Your amount may be lower based on your income, certain family members’ income, your living situation, and other factors. SSA reduces SSI benefits payments by $1 for every $2 you earn from work, which may include earnings from a job, self-employment, or any other activity that provides earned income. The money you receive from nonwork sources reduces benefit payments by $1 for every $1 received from sources including disability benefits, unemployment payments, and pensions.

Your living situation may also impact your SSI payments. If you live with a spouse, your spouse’s income may affect your SSI benefit payment. If you live in someone else’s home such as a relative or friend, your SSI payment may be lowered by up to one-third (33%) of this year’s maximum payment, but this only applies if you do not pay your fair share of food and shelter expenses.

SSDI Payments

Because SSDI benefits are based on work income and work credits, they can vary from person to person. The average monthly SSDI benefits payment in 2023 is $1,483, but almost two-thirds (66%) of SSDI recipients receive less than that, and only 10% of SSDI recipients receive monthly benefit payments of $2,000 or more. The 2023 average Social Security benefit per month for an SSDI recipient who has a spouse and children is $2,616. Spouses and children who are at retirement age and/or taking care of children can also get SSDI benefits.

Approval Rates for Different Ages

The SSA makes it easier for individuals over the age of 55 to receive SSDI and SSI benefits. When determining eligibility and approval, age can make a big difference. Within the SSA guidelines, there are five age categories that are considered:

  • Younger adults, ages 18-44
  • Younger adults ages 45-49
  • Middle-age adults ages 50-54
  • Advanced-age adults ages 55+
  •  Adults approaching retirement, ages 60+

In Illinois, is it harder to get SSI or SSDI? Generally, it is easier to get approved for SSDI benefits because payments are based on work history and accumulated work credits rather than income. The SSA classifies any person who is 55–59 years of age in the advanced age group. Applicants in this age group have a significantly higher rate of approvals for SSI and SSDI benefits, because they may be considered disabled under SSA guidelines, even if they can still perform light or sedentary job tasks.

Work History

When you apply for SSDI benefits, the SSA will review your work history and accumulated work credits during your employment history. Work credits are based on your total wages and self-employment income for the year. You may work all year to earn the maximum of 4 credits, or you may earn all 4 credits in much less time. The amount of earnings required to earn a work credit may change every year. In 2023, you earn 1 Social Security and Medicare credit for every $1,640 in covered earnings each year. You must earn $6,560 to get the maximum of 4 credits for the year. Your average earnings over your working years, not the total number of work credits you earn, determines the amount of your monthly benefit.

Recent Medical Tests

When you apply for disability benefits, you will be required to have a medical exam to determine the extent of your disability, so it’s important to work with a social security disability lawyer who can oversee this process. This exam is often done by an SSA-appointed physician who routinely performs disability testing.

The SSA will require documented evidence from a licensed physician that shows proof of illness, injury, or disability. Evidence includes a complete medical exam, medical tests such as X-rays, MRIs, and ultrasounds, and medical records showing a documented diagnosis of your condition and prognosis for improvement. Certain physical tests may be done to determine the severity of your impairment or disability, and psychological tests may be done to determine your mental acuity and impairments.