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If you’re looking for disability benefits, your best option is to apply for Social Security disability. But there are two federal programs to consider. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is an option if you’ve worked and paid taxes for years. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is available to people who don’t have much work history, children with disabilities, and people over age 65.
Both programs come with strict eligibility requirements and a long application process, but the monthly disability checks and free health insurance are worth the effort.
SSDI offers higher earning potential — the maximum possible SSDI check is $3,627 per month versus $914 with SSI. But which program you apply for depends on your situation. Some people also qualify for both.
In 2023, the maximum monthly amount you can get from SSDI is $3,627. But most people aren’t getting nearly that much. The average SSDI benefit is only about $1,358 per month.
Qualifying for SSDI doesn’t mean the Social Security Administration (SSA) will cut you a check for a set amount. Instead, how much you get is based on your historical earnings and how much you’ve paid into Social Security through the years.
You can calculate your SSDI benefit amount on your own, but the easiest way to see how much you’d get is to create a free mySocialSecurity account. (If you’re thinking about applying, you’ll need to make an account anyway.) Once you do, you’ll see exactly how much the SSA expects you to receive through SSDI.
Your monthly SSDI payment is exactly the same as your full Social Security retirement benefit. But keep in mind that you won’t get your full retirement benefit until you reach your full retirement age — between 66 and 67 years old, depending on when you were born.
So SSDI offers you more money each month (plus the same health insurance) compared to taking early retirement benefits (ERBs).
If you’re really unsure whether it’s better to apply for disability or just take ERBs, here’s our deep dive into retiring early vs. applying for SSDI.
The size of your SSDI check depends on your income and tax history, but average benefits do vary by state. Here’s a state-by-state breakdown of the average SSDI amount to give you an idea of how much people get in your area.
Average monthly SSDI benefit
District of Columbia
In 2023, SSI benefits max out at $914 per month. That said, just like SSDI, most people aren’t getting that full amount. In 2022, the average recipient got an SSI payment of $568 each month.
With SSI, any money you’re bringing in directly reduces the size of your benefit check. That includes income from a job but also passive income sources like state disability programs, VA benefits, and SSDI. Even if you don’t have your own income, living with someone else who pays for all of your housing or food (like if you live with a sibling for free) could also lower the value of your monthlySSI check.
To get a better idea of how much you’ll receive from SSI, here’s our breakdown of how SSI is calculated.
Where you live doesn’t directly affect the value of your SSI payments — only your income does — but average benefits do vary by state. The table below will help you figure out the average SSI payment in your state.
Average monthly SSI benefit
District of Columbia
Yes, you can qualify for SSDI and SSI together, though generally your SSDI benefit will be worth too much for you to also qualify for SSI. Many people who qualify for SSDI also won’t qualify for SSI because either their income or assets will be too high.
There are a couple of situations where it’s worth applying for both, like if you need health insurance quickly. SSI extends Medicaid coverage as soon as your application is accepted. With SSDI, you’ll need to get through a 24-month waiting period before you get covered by Medicare.
Learn more about who should apply for both SSDI and SSI.
Combining SSDI and SSI won’t necessarily result in a fat check. The max amount you can receive when part of both programs at the same time is $914 in 2023.
Because the maximum possible SSI benefit is $914, that’s also the most you can get from both programs at the same time. To oversimplify a bit, every dollar you get from SSDI means a dollar less you can get from SSI. Let’s say you’re getting $800 from SSDI. That $800 is subtracted from the $914 max SSI amount, so your SSI check would be just $114. If you have any other income sources, your SSI benefit will drop more.
No matter which disability program you qualify for, the monthly checks and free health insurance are a big help. But getting benefits is complicated. The application is long and you’ll probably have to go through multiple rounds of denials and appeals.
To help you get through the application confidently, we’ve created this step-by-step-guide based on the advice of our lawyers.
If you’ve already been denied once or even multiple times, your best option is to work with a disability lawyer. A lawyer can help even before you apply, but if you’ve already gotten a denial, professional help triples your likelihood of approval.
To get personalized assistance with your application and get matched with a lawyer today, take this quick disability benefits quiz. If you do want to talk with a lawyer, you won’t ever have to pay anything unless they win you benefits.
SSDI pays more than SSI. The maximum possible SSDI payment is $3,627 per month, while SSI pays up to $914 per month. How much you get depends on your individual situation.
If you’re unsure which Social Security disability program to choose, apply for both. They use the same application and then the SSA can determine which of the two you qualify for.
You can do some work on SSDI but if you earn more than $1,470 per month in 2023 (the substantial gainful activity limit) could mean losing SSDI benefits. For more help, start with our guide to working on SSDI.
SSI counts a variety of income sources when finding your benefit amount. This includes income from a job, other disability benefits you receive, and assistance you get for paying rent or utility bills. Our explanation of how SSI is calculated lists dozens of common types of SSI income.
No, your medical condition doesn't impact the amount you receive from Social Security disability benefits. Read more about which conditions qualify you for disability.
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