The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program – run by the Social Security Administration – provides monthly income to people who are age 65 and older, or are blind or disabled, and have limited income and financial resources. As of January 2013, the amount of SSI payment for an eligible single person is $710 per month; the amount for eligible couples is $1,066 per month.
SSI benefits aren't just for adults. Children can also receive benefits if they are blind or disabled, and meet the income requirements of the program.
ELIGIBILITY: People who are under 65 years of age must be either blind or disabled to qualify for SSI payments. Blind means that you are either totally blind or have very poor eyesight. Disabled means that you have a physical or mental problem that keeps you from working and is expected to last at least a year or end in death.
When determining if a child qualifies as disabled, the Social Security Administration considers how the child's disability affects their everyday life.
Eligibility for SSI also depends upon your income and the things you own. Income includes any money that you have coming in each month such as wages, Social Security benefits and pensions. Income also includes non-cash items you might receive, such as food, clothing and shelter.
The amount of income you can receive and still be eligible for SSI payments depends partly upon where you live. You can call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 to find out the limits for your state. Limits also vary based upon whether or not you are working, and if so, how much you earn.
Social Security doesn't count all of your income when determining your eligibility for SSI. The following things are not counted:
- the first $20 of most income received each month;
- the first $65 a month you earn from working, and half the amount over $65;
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps;
- shelter you receive from private nonprofit organizations;
- most home energy assistance.
In addition, your financial resources – the things you own, such as your savings and assets – cannot exceed $2,000 ($3,000 if you are married). Social Security doesn't count everything you own.
To receive SSI you must also live in the U.S. or Northern Mariana Islands, and you must be a U.S. citizen or noncitizen lawfully admitted for permanent residence. Some noncitizens granted special status by the Immigration and Naturalization Service may be eligible.
PAYMENTS: As of January 2013, the amount of SSI benefits available per month is $710 for a single person, and $1,066 for a couple. You may get more if you live in a state that adds to the SSI check. Currently, the states the supplement the basic SSI check are California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. For more information, visit State Assistance Programs for SSI Recipients.
APPLYING FOR SSI: To apply for SSI benefits, visit your local Social Security office. You can call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment with a representative who will guide you through the application process. You can call between the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on business days. People who are deaf or hard of hearing can call Social Security's toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778. Other resources:
- "Understanding SSI" – a publication of the Social Security Administration that explains the Supplemental Security Income program in greater detail.
- Supplemental Security Income – A section of the federal Social Security Administration website. On this site you can download forms and publications, get replacement Social Security and Medicare cards, and apply for retirement benefits.