What is SSI?
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is an income benefit program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or age 65 or older. The SSI program is based on financial need established by income and assets requirements.
How does SSI differ from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?
- SSI and SSDI are both federal SSA programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities. SSI is a means-based program for low-income individuals, so eligibility is based in part on your income and resources. SSDI eligibility is not based on low income. It is only available to those people who have paid into the federal insurance program through FICA (or payroll) taxes and who meet the SSA’s definition of disability. However, some individuals are eligible for both SSI and SSDI. (Click here for a free Social Security disability evaluation.)
Who is eligible for SSI benefits?
- Adults who are age 65 or older, blind or disabled
- Disabled or blind children
- Must have limited income and resources (meet the SSI eligibility requirements), and
- Be a resident of the United States, and
- Not be absent from the country for more than 30 days, and
- Be either a U.S. citizen or national, or in one of certain categories of eligible non-citizens.
What are the SSI eligibility requirements?
- Limited Income Requirements
- Includes money you receive, such as wages, Social Security benefits, pensions; also such things as free food and shelter. The SSA also includes part of your spouse’s income and resources if you are married.
- Additional stipulations may apply (e.g., you are a student, etc.).
- Income the SSA does not count:
- The first $20 a month of most income you receive;
- The first $65 a month you earn from working and half of the amount over $65;
- Food stamps;
- Shelter you receive from private nonprofit organizations; and
- Most home energy assistance.
- Contact the SSA to find out the monthly income limits in your state for additional state supplements.
- Limited Resources Requirements
- Resources are things you own and can include: real estate, bank accounts, cash, stocks and bonds.
- Individual limit: Total resources worth no more than $2,000.
- Couple limit: Total resources worth no more than $3,000.
- Resources the SSA does not count:
- The home you live in and the land it’s on;
- Life insurance policies with a face value of $1,500 or less;
- Your car (usually);
- Burial plots for you and members of your immediate family; and
- Up to $1,500 in burial funds for you and up to $1,500 in burial funds for your spouse.
How is SSI different from Social Security disability benefits?
- There are several differences. For example, SSI benefits are not based on your prior work history. SSI is funded by general funds from the U.S. Treasury, while Social Security benefits are funded by FICA taxes you and your employer paid. In addition, in most states, SSI beneficiaries also may receive Medicaid (medical assistance) to pay for hospital stays, doctor bills, prescription drugs and other health costs.
What are the benefits of receiving SSI?
- In 2013, the federal benefit rate is $710 for an individual and $1,066 for a couple. Some states supplement your federal SSI benefit with additional payments. This makes the total SSI benefit levels higher in those states. SSI benefit amounts and state supplemental payment amounts vary based upon your income, living arrangements and other factors.
Can I apply for SSI on my own?
- Yes, you can. You may be eligible for both SSI and SSDI benefits if you have an eligible work history, limited income and resources. A disability representative can help improve your chances of being awarded these benefits, and more quickly, and usually handles your SSI and SSDI claims simultaneously.