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Understanding Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Before applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, it is important to learn more about the program, including the eligibility requirements that must be met in order to receive benefits, how benefit amounts are calculated and paid out and how to submit an application. The SSI program is a government program offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to aid qualifying low income applicants who have limited resources through monthly monetary benefits. Payment amounts are calculated based upon income, resources and the state that an applicant lives within.

In the sections below, you will learn about SSI payments and eligibility requirements in order to better prepare yourself for an application. Not only will you have a better idea of what to expect, but you will be ready to submit the documentation that is needed to process your application.

What is the SSI program and how does it differ from Social Security benefits?

SSI benefits are provided through the Supplemental Security Income program to qualifying elderly, disabled or blind individuals who meet income guidelines. While many people eligible for the SSI program may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits, it is important to understand key differences about these programs. SSI and Social Security benefits differ in a number of ways, including, but not limited to:

  • SSI benefits may be paid to you or and certain members of your family, so long as you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes throughout employment.
  • SSI is financed by general funds in the U.S. Treasury.
  • In most states, SSI recipients may receive additional supplemental benefits as well as medical assistance through Medicaid and food assistance through SNAP.
  • Benefits are paid on the first o each month.
  • Eligibility requirements are vastly different.

If eligible for SSI benefits and Social Security benefits, you may be eligible to participate in both programs.

What is the maximum Social Security Benefit amount?

The max Social Security benefit amount possible as of January 1, 2023, is $914 for an individual and $1,371 for a couple per month. However, most beneficiaries do not receive the maximum amount due to deductions toward household income and potential shelter costs.

Most states provide Social Security supplement payments in addition to federal benefits. The states that do not are:

  • Arizona.
  • Arkansas.
  • Mississippi.
  • North Dakota.
  • West Virginia.
  • North Mariana Islands.

In most cases, state offices will determine the number of benefits offered as well as provide payments to recipients directly. In cases such as these, you will need to contact your state office in order to determine potential benefit amounts.

State Social Security supplement income is handled by the Social Security Administration in the following states:

  • California
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont

If you are applying for benefits and live in one of these states, you may contact the SSA to determine the state-based benefits that you may be eligible to receive.

How are Social Security SSI total payment amounts calculated and paid?

Your total SSI payment amounts are based upon several factors, including the current maximum federal benefit amount, any state supplement amount that you may be entitled to and your countable income. Countable income can be income earned through:

  • Wages.
  • Social Security benefits.
  • Pensions.
  • State disability payments.
  • Unemployment benefits.
  • The monetary value of free food or shelter that you receive.

However, your SSI benefits will not be determined by non-countable income, such as:

  • The first $20 in the income you receive each month.
  • The first $65 of earnings and one-half of earnings over $65 are received in a month.
  • The value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) received.
  • Income tax refunds.
  • Home energy assistance.
  • Loans that you must repay.

Your SSI payments are calculated by deducting any non-countable income from your gross income in order to determine your countable income. After, your countable income is subtracted from the current SSI federal benefit rate. The remaining amount will be the Federal SSI amount you will receive, in addition to any supplemental payments from your state, if applicable.

Your Social Security SSI payments will be paid to you on the first of each month unless the first falls on a weekend. If this is the case, you will receive your benefits the Friday before the first of the month.

Learn About SSI Benefits Requirements

To meet SSI eligibility requirements, you must meet one of the following categorical requirements:

  • You are at least 65 years of age
  • You are blind
  • You are disabled

In addition to categorical requirements, you must be a United States citizen or have a qualifying and lawful non-citizen status. To receive benefits, you must be a resident of the United States and:

  • You cannot be absent from the county or a full calendar month or for 30 consecutive days or more.
  • You cannot be confined to an institution such as a prison or hospital at the government’s expense.
  • You must apply for any cash benefits or payments that you may be eligible for, such as Social Security benefits or pensions.
  • You must give the Social Security Administration permission to contact your financial institution and obtain financial records about you.
  • You cannot have an unsatisfied felony or an arrest warrant for escape from custody, flight to avoid prosecution or confinement or flight escape.

SSI income guidelines are set in place as the program is designed to provide monthly monetary benefits to low-income citizens. SSI income limits also govern asset limitations. For the purposes of SSI, your resources may be considered as income after you have exceeded the resource value of $2,000 per adult or child or $3,000 for a couple. Resources include, but are not limited to:

  • Cash.
  • Bank accounts, stocks and bonds.
  • Land that you own.
  • Vehicles.
  • Personal property.
  • Life insurance.
  • Anything else that you own that could potentially be converted into cash and used for food and shelter if necessary.

You may not receive SSI benefits if you are found to be giving away or selling resources in order to reduce your own resources for the purpose of meeting SSI eligibility requirements.

Adults who are 18 years of age or older will be considered disabled for the purpose of SSI if a medically determinable physical or mental impairment is present (including an emotional or learning problem) which:

  • Results in the inability to do any substantial gainful activity; and
  • Is expected to result in death; or
  • Has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of no less than 12 months.

Requirements for SSI for children expand on general eligibility requirements. For a child under the age of 18 to be considered disabled and potentially be eligible for SSI, the child must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, including an emotional or learning problem, that:

  • Results in marked and severe functional limitations; and
  • Can be expected to result in death; or
  • Has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of no less than 12 months.

For the purpose of SSI eligibility, both children and adults are considered blind if:

  • There is a central visual acuity for a distance of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the use of corrective lenses; or
  • There is a limited field of vision in the better eye, such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees.

How to Apply for SSI

It is important to apply for SSI benefits as soon as possible so that you do not lose benefits as benefits cannot be prorated earlier than the date of your application. You can apply for SSI online or by visiting your local Social Security office. Should you wish to apply at a local SSA office, appointments are available and can help you to reduce your wait time. You can schedule an appointment with the SSA by calling 800-772-1213.

When applying for SSI, you will be required to provide documentation that will support the information that you have provided on your application. Depending on your circumstances, you may be asked to provide documents such as:

  • Your Social Security card.
  • Proof of age.
  • Proof of citizenship or alien status record.
  • Proof of income.
  • Proof of resources.
  • Proof of living arrangements.
  • Proof of disability or blindness.

Learn How To Apply For SSI With Our Help

As an independent and private company, we are proud to help our users learn about the benefit application process.

  • Get Free Information with Our Guide
  • Take our optional survey to receive, based on your answers, related offers from our partners!
  • Keep Updated with Curated Content