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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
8:34 PM Tue, Nov. 20th

Social Security: SSA and SSI two very different programs

It's a question 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 money 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 financed through the Social Security trust funds; your Social Security payroll or FICA taxes are earmarked for Social Security benefits. SSI is financed 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.

The Social Security Act established Social Security on Aug. 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).

Iris Greene is manager of the Social Security office in Prescott.