Are Social Security and SSI the Same Thing?

Close up of a senior couple dealing with their home finances.
vorDa / Getty Images

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.

See: 20 Best Places To Live on Only a Social Security Check
Find: 25 Things To Sell When You’re Ready To Retire

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:

Social Security

  • 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
Retire Comfortably


  • 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

Discover: Can You Receive Social Security If You Never Paid In?
Plan Ahead: What To Expect From Social Security in 2022

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).

More From GOBankingRates

Share This Article:

About the Author

Josephine Nesbit is a freelance writer specializing in real estate and personal finance. She grew up in New England but is now based out of Ohio where she attended The Ohio State University and lives with her two toddlers and fiancé. Her work has appeared in print and online publications such as Fox Business and Scotsman Guide.

Best Bank Accounts of August 2022

Untitled design (1)
Close popup The GBR Closer icon

Sending you timely financial stories that you can bank on.

Sign up for our daily newsletter for the latest financial news and trending topics.

Please enter an email.
Please enter a valid email address.
There was an unknown error. Please try again later.

For our full Privacy Policy, click here.