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Supplemental Security Income (SSI) serves as a needs-based welfare program. It is designed to provide benefits for people with disabilities who need help covering basic costs of living. Eligibility depends mostly on a person’s income and resources. One can be eligible for SSI regardless of whether they have worked or paid taxes to Social Security. However, there are limits on the amount of assets or income a claimant can possess to be eligible for SSI.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides benefits to people with disabilities who have worked and paid sufficient taxes to Social Security for several years (generally 10) prior to being disabled. If a person is declared disabled and unable to work, they will be provided SSDI benefits regardless of their previous income or assets.
SSI is not subject to any waiting period like SSDI is. For SSI, it doesn’t matter when you were approved for benefits — one will receive disability benefits back to the date they filed their claim.
SSDI is always subject to a five-month waiting period (although many claimants don’t effectively have to undergo the waiting period, since it typically takes over five months to get a hearing, file appeals, etc.).
Should a claimant be approved on the initial claim, they will be more likely to undergo the five-month waiting period since they didn’t have to wait through the appeals process.