Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) helps people who can no longer work because of a disability. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits people with very low incomes who are also disabled, blind, or 65 years old or older.
In certain circumstances, you can collect SSI and SSDI at the same time. (It's called receiving "concurrent benefits.") Concurrent benefits can happen if you're approved for SSDI but your monthly benefit amount is very small. You might get a very low SSDI award if your wages were low or you haven't worked much in recent years.
To qualify for SSI and SSDI at the same time, your income (including SSDI) must be less than $841 per month (the current SSI monthly payment amount). But determining your SSI income limit is more complicated than that.
For instance, the limit is higher in some states. And if you're working and making some money, some of that income doesn't count towards the limit. (See our article on the SSI income limit for more information.)
The SSI program also has asset limits. So, even if your income is low enough, the value of the property you own could affect your eligibility or award amount.
If your income and assets are low enough to qualify for SSI, and you also worked long enough to qualify for Social Security disability insurance, you might be able to receive both benefits at once. Just keep in mind that the amount of your disability payment will affect your eligibility for SSI. In many cases, your SSDI payment will be too high for you to qualify for SSI.
If you qualify for SSI, any other income you have will affect the amount of your monthly benefit. Remember, the current SSI monthly maximum is $841. But calculating your SSI benefit isn't as simple as subtracting the amount of your disability payment from $841.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) ignores the first $20 of unearned income (like SSDI). So, if your SSDI payment is $500 a month and you have no other income, your SSI benefit would be $361 a month. That's because SSA counts only $480 of your $500 disability payment, and $841 minus $480 is $361.
Some people are eligible for both SSDI and SSI for just a short time. Here's when that might happen.
Once you're approved for SSDI, you'll have a five-month waiting period before you receive any disability payments. You won't get an SSDI payment during that waiting period, but if you have little to no income, you could get SSI payments during that time.
After the five-month period, you would start receiving your SSDI payments. As a result, your income would go up, lowering the amount of your SSI payment. The SSA would subtract the amount of your SSDI payment from your SSI benefit—all but the first $20.
For instance, let's say you get $841 a month in SSI during the SSDI waiting period. Then, when your SSDI kicks in, you start receiving a $600 monthly disability payment. The SSA would subtract $580 of your disability payment from your $841 SSI award. That would reduce your SSI payment to $261 a month.
You would receive this reduced SSI payment ($261) on top of your new $600 SSDI monthly benefit.
You can apply for SSDI, SSI, or both benefits at the same time through the Social Security Administration. No matter how you apply, the SSA will look at your income and assets, then decide if your claim should be for SSI, SSDI, or both (concurrent benefits).
A state agency, Disability Determination Services (DDS), will process your claim. Disability is defined the same way for both SSDI and SSI claims. And both involve the same disability evaluation process. So, the type of disability you have won't affect whether you get SSDI, SSI, or both.
There are advantages to getting SSI and SSDI at the same time. The main benefit of collecting SSI when you're getting a low monthly SSDI benefit is that the SSI payment will raise your maximum benefit up to $841 per month.
Plus, you can get back pay for both SSI and SSDI—that is, the back payments that the SSA owes you for the months leading up to the approval of your claim. The SSA can take anywhere from three months to two years to approve your benefits. For some of those months, you can receive back pay for the amount of your SSDI payment plus the extra SSI payment.
For instance, if you're awarded $500 in monthly SSDI and $361 in SSI benefits, that's $861 a month. If it takes SSA ten months to approve your claims, you could get up to $8,610 in back pay. (Learn more about how back pay is calculated.)
There's another benefit to collecting SSDI when you're eligible for SSI: you might be able to get Medicare, even if you're not yet 65 years old. But you'll have to wait two years (24 months) after you become eligible for disability benefits before you qualify for Medicare.
If you're not eligible for SSDI and you're not 65 yet, you can't get Medicare. But, if you're getting SSI benefits, you'll qualify for Medicaid in most states—even if you're also collecting SSDI.
Both programs can give you access to health care you might not otherwise have, but they aren't the same. Medicaid provides payment for more services than Medicare (in most states). But, more doctors accept Medicare, so it can be easier to find a provider under that program. For more information, see our article on getting Medicare or Medicaid while on disability.
Updated March 8, 2022