About SSI and SSDI

If you have a disability and low income, you might qualify for these benefits:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

These are programs of the US federal government's Social Security Administration. They give monthly payments to people who are disabled and have low income and not many resources.

If you go through the process of applying for SSI, they will tell you if you also qualify for SSDI.


SSI can help pay for basic needs like food, housing, clothing, and more.

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If you qualify for SSI then you automatically qualify for Medicaid and maybe other benefits.

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How do you qualify for SSI?

You must meet guidelines for:

Disability, Income and Resources

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This is mostly for adults who have worked for years. It also gives you monthly benefits, but is based on how much you have paid into Social Security through your past jobs.

Sometimes  a child or young adult can get this benefit through their parent's work record.

Click on the boxes below to learn more about qualifying depending on your age: 


Qualifying for SSI: how it's different for children and adults:

Children qualify for SSI based on their disability and the income and resources of their family. But after age 18, it depends on their own income and resources, and also their ability to work for a living.

Image of two rounded rectangles. The first rectangle has the subject 'Age 17 and under' above the text 'Definition of disability includes life skills SSI looks at the income and resourcesof the parents.' The second rectangle has the subject 'Age 18 and over' above the text 'Definition of disability includes life skills and includes ability to work SSI just counts the income and resourcesthat are in the person’s own name'

Sources: Social Security, Jackins (2010)

Qualifying for SSDI: How it's different for children and adults

Qualifying for SSDI depends on your own history of working and paying into the Social Security system. But in some cases you can qualify based on your parents' work history.

If you are 18 or older:

  • You may qualify for SSDI based on your own work record, and how much you have paid into Social Security

  • If your disability started before age 22, you may qualify under your parents work record and get benefits for life.

If you are 17 or younger:

  • You may qualify if one of your parents Is retired, deceased, OR  disabled themselves and is collecting SSDI, and has worked and paid into the Social Security system for at least 10 years

  • You may be able to get benefits until you turn 18, or 19 if enrolled in school

Sources: Social Security, Jackins (2010), National Academy of Social Insurance

Here's what you can do:

  • Go to our SSI Benefits Guide to learn about these benefits and how to apply. (Click on the title to open in a new tab on your screen.)

  • Ask about SSI at one of the support organizations, like an Independent Living Center.


Sources: Social Security Administration, National Academy of Social Insurance