Social Security Disability Programs


The Social Security Administration (SSA) pays disability benefits through two programs: the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. This section discusses the differences between the programs. This section is for children and adults with disabilities.


Generally, anyone under age 65 may be eligible for disability payments under one of the SSA programs and it is never too early to plan for the future. Understanding what is available under SSA for a person with a disability, is a good place to start.


The definition of disability for both SSI and SSDI is: The inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) that can be expected to result in death or that has lasted or that can be expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months. This is a very strict definition of disability and where as other programs may pay benefits for partial or short-term disability, SSA does not.

Supplemental Security Income

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is a needs-based program. It is generally for people with no or little work history. SSI pays individuals who are aged (65 years or older), blind, or have disabilities (including children under age 18) that have limited income and resources. If a child with disabilities is under age 18, the income and resources of the parent(s) will be considered. When a child with disabilities turns age 18 he/she is considered an adult and the income and resources of the parent(s) is no longer considered for SSI eligibility. SSI benefits are usually paid monthly and are to be used to pay for food, clothing and shelter for the recipient.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is financed with the Social Security taxes that are paid by workers, employers, and self-employed people. To be eligible for SSDI a worker must have worked and paid their Social Security taxes long enough to be ?insured?. The SSDI benefits are paid to workers who are blind or have disabilities. Benefits may also be paid to the worker?s widow(er)s and/or dependent child(ren) under age 18. Dependent benefits normally stop when a child reaches age 18. However, those benefits can continue if the child is found to have disabilities. Benefits would then be paid as Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB). If a child is receiving SSDI benefits on a parent?s record and has a disability, it is important to tell SSA six months prior to age 18 to allow for possible payment continuation under CDB.

Combined Benefits

Keep in mind it is possible to be eligible for benefits under both programs. If a person receiving benefits from the SSA starts receiving income, such as wages, government benefits, pensions, inheritances, etc. it may affect benefits. You may want to talk to a Benefits Planner, who can help you plan the way you receive income and understand the way it will affect your benefits.


  • Social Security Administration 1-800-772-1213 (toll free) 7:00am-7:00pm, Monday-Friday, except holidaysLocal Social Security Administration office. Look in your local phone directory under the Federal Government section
  • Social Security Administration website -
  • Pertinent SSA Pamphlets:
  • Disability Benefits (Publication No. 10029),
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) (Publication No. 05-10069),
  • Benefits for Children with Disabilities (Publication No.05-10026).
  • A complete list of all SSA publications is available on the website. You can also request publications by calling the toll-free number.

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