Welfare and Social Security are different financial programs designed to provide financial income to their recipients. All U.S. workers who have paid Social Security taxes over a life time may receive Social Security retirement or survivors' benefits. This has nothing to do with welfare, as you are simply being paid out by a fund that you paid into during your working years.

In comparison, residents of each state in urgent financial need or who are disabled, elderly, or blind may apply for welfare benefits. Other U.S. workers may apply for disability benefits when a serious illness prevents them from gainful employment for at least one year. Applying for Social Security disability benefits is not a guarantee that the claimant will receive approval.

Social security is often confused with welfare because the Social Security Administration also oversees a program for needy or disabled Americans. Social Security's Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides public assistance to U.S. workers and their families in need.

Low-income families who are struggling to find employment to pay for life's essentials, such as housing and nutritious food, may receive welfare or SSI benefits. Some people may be eligible for welfare but not SSI, or vice versa. Others may be eligible for both under certain conditions.

There are several important differences between welfare and SSI. Knowing the differences can help you decide which program is the best fit for your financial situation.

Differences between social security and welfare:
Administrative Differences
Target Recipients
Income Criteria

  1. Administrative Differences

    Each state operates welfare or public assistance programs. These programs are called "Temporary or Transitional Assistance for Needy Families" (TANF) by the federal government. Each state receives block grant awards for welfare programs by the U.S. government. The federal government then establishes the manner in which money and benefits are distributed to eligible individuals and/or their families.

    At the end of 1995, the U.S. government abolished federal entitlement to assistance programs. Supplemental Security Income is provided to need workers and families and is funded from general tax receipts and revenues. Social Security Administration, established in 1935 as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal, operates and administers SSI.

    However, SSI differs from a worker's Social Security/Social Security disability benefits payments. In many cases, Americans receiving SSI have not paid into the Social Security insurance program over a life time.

  2. Target Recipients

    Temporary or transitional assistance for needy persons and families aims to offer financial assistance to those in need. Each state determines its own guidelines but, because federal grants are used, the U.S. government determines most of the particulars for eligibility.

    Welfare's goals include helping families to care for children and helping needy adults transition from welfare to employment. In comparison, SSI benefits for elderly, disabled, or blind people support those with minimal incomes.

    Disabled workers may apply for transitional assistance while they wait for approval of SSI and/or Social Security disability payments. State transitional assistance programs offer small amounts of cash and food stamps, along with access to Medicaid, to cover essential human needs.

    If the disabled worker is approved for Social Security and/or SSI payments, Social Security Administration repays the state-level temporary or transitional assistance program with the claimant's funds. Repaying the funds to the state allows more needy and disabled people to get the urgent financial help they need within a short period of time.

  3. Income Criteria

    The criteria you have to meet in order to be eligible to receive support from TANF programs differ by state. In general, TANF income limits are based on the federal poverty level per state. About one-third of families become eligible for assistance only when their monthly income declines below federal poverty limits. Elsewhere, families qualify even if income exceeds more than 100 percent of the federal poverty limits.

    In comparison, Social Security Supplemental Income recipients must also meet income limits. The recipients must be considered elderly, disabled, or blind by the state medical and/or psychological boards. SSI monthly income is $733 per individual or $1,100 per couple in 2016. SSI recipients may also qualify for other programs, such as SNAP food stamps.

  4. Considerations

    Social Security and welfare are two separate and distinct financial assistance programs. Social Security benefits range from retirement and/or spousal death to disability payments. SSI is a program designed to meet the basic financial requirements of our country's neediest residents.

    If you're in urgent need of life's basics, ask your state's TANF program about how to apply for benefits. Plan to bring financial information, such as paycheck stubs, housing and/or utilities costs. Bring medical records and the names of doctor(s) and the dates you visited each for care.

    Some states do not allow those receiving TANF to own a car. The applicant must have very little cash on hand in order to qualify for TANF assistance. Most states require claimants to apply for assistance in person. In some cases, you may request an appointment with a state counselor.

    Remember, these are benefits that you have a right to as long as meet the criteria. While doing everything you can to earn the money you need is always the best way to go, don't let pride or some unhelpful government office worker with attitude prevent you from getting the help you need. If it weren't for people like you, that welfare office worker would be out of a job (but do be polite and friendly).

  5. Conclusion

    The difference between Social Security and Welfare is often a matter of how urgently the applicant or family needs financial help. Plan to apply for SSI and TANF as soon as you become disabled or require urgent financial assistance.

    Approval for SSI requires at least several months longer than TANF. Although TANF funds and food stamps allowances are modest, obtaining this help can keep you afloat until SSI is approved.