Social Security benefits replace a portion of your lifetime earnings when you retire, develop a qualifying disability or go to your spouse, children or survivors after you die. Unlike Social Security benefits, the Social Security Administration distinguishes that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is not based on your work earnings or a family member’s work.
Many people who are eligible for SSI may also be eligible for Social Security benefits, as both share the same application. However, SSI is a needs-based program for those with limited income and resources and is financed by the general funds of the U.S. Treasury — personal income taxes, corporate and other taxes. Social Security taxes do not fund the SSI program.
Here are some of the biggest differences between Social Security benefits and SSI, according to the SSA:
Your benefit amount is based on your lifetime earnings
Financed by employer and wage contributions
No income or resource limit
Must be “insured” or worked long enough and paid SS taxes
May be automatically enrolled in Medicare
There are different benefits types: retirement, survivor and disability
Provides benefits to eligible family members
Other income does not affect benefits, except wages may affect benefits under full retirement age or disability benefits
Where you live and your household does not affect your benefits
Benefits are needs-based
Financed by general funds
You must have limited income and resources to qualify for SSI
You do not need work credits
May qualify for Medicaid or Medi-Cal in California
There are different benefit types: aged, disability and blindness
No family benefits
Your benefit amount is based on federal and state laws
Other income may affect benefits
Where you live and other members of your household could affect your benefits
It is worth noting that despite their difference, Social Security and SSI do have a few similarities, including that they are paid monthly and that the medical standards for disability are practically identical for both programs (at least for individuals age 18 or older).
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