What is the difference between SSDI and SSI? As I discuss in this episode, SSDI stands for Social Security Disability Insurance. It is an insurance program and the payroll taxes you paid while you were working are the premiums.
You earn insurance "credits" based on your gross earnings. In 2018, you earn one credit for every $1,320 of gross earnings. You can earn a maximum of four credits in a calendar year, so once you have earned $5,280, you will have all four possible credits.
The earnings requirements for previous years are slightly lower and the earnings requirements for 2019 and beyond will be higher.
It does not matter when during the the year that you earn your credits - if you earned $5,280 during the first week of January in 2018 you would be covered for the full year.
One thing to keep in mind, however - SSDI requires that you earn 20 credits during the 40 quarters ending the year before you become disabled. This is called the "5 out of 10" rule because it roughly translates into 5 years of earnings during the 10 years prior to the year you became disabled.
Example: if you worked full time (and earned $25,000 per year) from 2006 through 2015, you would have earned 40 credits. Since you only need 20 credits you are "fully insured." This also means that your insurance coverage will follow you for about 5 years after you stop working. In our example, if you stopped working in 2015, you would be insured for SSDI until some point in 2020.
SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income and is a welfare program for those who don't have enough earnings to qualify for SSI. You don't need any credits but because SSI is a welfare program, your benefit is capped. In 2018, the most you can receive from SSI is $750 per month. By contrast, SSDI pays you based on your earnings record and most claimants are paid between $1,200 and $2,400 per month.
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