2007-08-17 / Columnists

Social Security And You

SSA And SSI: What's The Difference?
Commentary By James Glasser, Manager, Far Rockaway Social Security Office

James Glasser James Glasser The question posed above is one we receive often, in a variety of ways. "What's the difference between SSA and SSI?" Or "Are Social Security and Supplemental Security Income the same thing?"

The short answer is no, they're not.

Here's the long answer.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is the government agency that administers both Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. But the two programs are not the same, and the funds come from different places.

Social Security comes in three varieties: retirement benefits, disability benefits and survivors' benefits. SSI comes in two: disability and aged benefits.

Social Security benefits are funded through the Social Security trust funds; your Social Security payroll or FICA taxes are earmarked for Social Security benefits.

SSI is funded through general tax revenue.

Social Security is a social insurance program based on contributions. In order to collect benefits, you must have paid into the system and become insured.

Most people need about 40 credits, or 10 years of work, to qualify.

SSI is a needs-based program that pays benefits to people with limited income and resources, who are either disabled or age 65 or older.

When you get Social Security, what you own, including bank accounts, property, and investments, does not affect your benefits. Since SSI is needs-based, your resources do count when you receive SSI benefits.

Social Security was established by the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935. SSI was created by the amendments of 1972.

One thing that is the same for both Social Security and SSI benefits is that you can easily sign up for direct deposit of payments- the safe, quick and convenient way to receive your payments on time, every time.

SSA and SSI may seem only a letter apart, but there's a world of difference between the two programs.

To learn more, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov.

You can also call us at 1-800-772- 1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

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