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SSI Disability Benefits: Eligibility, Benefits, Rules and Application

social security program of the US government
Samyak Lalit
Samyak Lalit | July 20, 2021 (Last update: July 24, 2021)

Samyak Lalit is an author and disability rights activist. He is a polio survivor and the founder of projects like Kavita Kosh, Gadya Kosh, TechWelkin, WeCapable, Dashamlav and Viklangta Dot Com. Website:

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program of the United States government that provides monthly payments to persons with disabilities with less than specified income and resources. The same is available to persons without disability who have crossed 65 years of age and meet the financial qualifications. The Social Security Administration of the United States administers the SSI program.  It is imperative to mention that SSI is different from SSDI monthly benefits. We have already covered Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) elaborately. In this article, we will discuss Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in details.

What is the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program?

SSI is a federal program that is funded by general tax revenue. The aim of this supplemental income is to fulfill the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. Hence, the exact amount of monthly payment under SSI varies from person to person depending on their living arrangement and countable income. Not everyone gets the same monthly supplemental income. The basic federal amount of SSI is the same nationwide. However, some states add money to the basic benefit. This creates a difference in the amount from state to state.

A person may get more if their state adds money to federal SSI funds. A person may get a lesser amount if, for example, they live with a spouse who has income or if they themselves are receiving other benefits like wages, pensions or Social Security Disability Income.

Who is Eligible for SSI?

Virtually, anyone may apply for SSI. The benefit is provided to U.S. citizens, nationals of the U.S. and some non-citizens too. Basically, anyone residing in one of the 50 US states, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands may be eligible for the benefit. There are few exceptions to the rule – children of military parent(s) who are on permanent duty outside the U.S. and certain students who are temporarily outside the U.S. may receive SSI payments outside the U.S.

Apart from the rule of residency, other eligibility criteria for SSI includes –

  1. Persons who are above 65 years of age
    • Have limited income (pension, wages etc.)
    • Have limited resources (things owned)
  2. Persons with disabilities or those who are blind
    • Have limited income (pension, wages etc.)
    • Have limited resources (things owned)

Note: Disabled and blind children whose parents have less income and resources may also get SSI benefits.

social security program of the US government

Resources and Income Rules for SSI

It is important to understand rules regarding income and resources as they are the crucial criteria for deciding eligibility for SSI benefits.


Income, for SSI, is the money a person gets through wages, pension or other social security benefits. Things like food and shelter too are counted as income for SSI. The income limit i.e. the amount of income you receive and still get SSI benefits may vary from state to state.

For calculating your total income, part of the income and resources of your spouse too is added if you are married. If you are younger than 18 years of age, part of parental income and resources too gets added to your total income. Part of the income of the sponsor is added to calculate the total income of sponsored non-citizens.

There are a few incomes that are not calculated in your total income for the purpose of SSI. Some of the income that is ‘not counted’ include –

  • First $20 income a month on most of the income
  • First $65 income you earn by working and half the amount over $65
  • Benefits of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which was formerly called the Food Stamps
  • Shelter facility provided by a private non-profit organization
  • Most home energy assistance
  • Some wages and scholarships received by students
  • Wages used by working disabled people to pay for items or services that help them work
  • Wages used by blind persons for work expenses (e.g. wages used on transportation to and from work)


Resources are the things a person owns. For SSI eligibility, countable resources include real estate, bank accounts, cash, stocks and bonds. An individual may get SSI if their resources are worth or less than $2,000. A couple may be eligible if their resources are worth or less than $3,000. A person owning property may also be eligible for SSI while trying to sell the property.

Not everything a person owns is counted as a resource while deciding SSI eligibility. Some of the resources that are not counted include –

  • The home and land where you live
  • Life Insurance Policy with face value $1,500 or less
  • Your car (in most cases)
  • Burial plots for you or immediate family members
  • Up to $1,500 in burial funds for you and your spouse each

Who is NOT Eligible for SSI?

Despite fulfilling the above-mentioned eligibility criteria some people may not get SSI benefits. Following are some of the common examples of people who do not get SSI benefits even though they fulfill the above-mentioned eligibility criteria. Such people include someone:

  • Residing in a city or county rest home, halfway house or other public institution such as prison or jail.
  • Living in public operated community residence that serves more than 16 people.
  • Who has a felony or arrest warrants for escape from custody, flight to avoid prosecution or confinement, or flight escape.

Applying for SSI and SSDI Simultaneously

Some people with disabilities may apply for and get SSI as well as SSDI benefits simultaneously. In order to get both the benefits together, a person needs to fulfill the following criteria –

  • Must be a disabled person between age 18 and 65
  • Have never been married
  • A U.S. citizen residing in one of the 50 states, District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands.
  • Have never applied or received any social security payments in the past.

(Note: Blind and disabled people may get SSI benefits even while working. The amount of payment will be adjusted with the change in payment. Even when SSI monthly payment is stopped due to an increase in income, the person will continue to be covered under Medicaid.)

Documents and Information Required to Apply for SSI

Whether you are applying for SSI benefits online or plan to do it offline, you should keep some documents or information ready. Following are the information and documents you’ll need to apply for SSI –

  • Social Security Card or a record of Social Security Number
  • Birth or Baptismal Certificate or any other proof of age
  • Information related to your residence such as mortgage or lease documents, name of the landlord etc.
  • Payroll slips, bank book, insurance policy, burial fund records and all other information regarding your income and resources
  • Details of hospital, clinic, treatment and doctors if you are a disabled or a blind person applying for SSI
  • Proof of the citizenship of U.S. (or eligibility as a non-citizen)
  • Details of the bank, credit union, savings and loan account number

Additional Help for Those Who Receive SSI Benefits

People who are eligible and receive benefits under the SSI program may also get some other aids or benefits.

Social Services

People who get SSI benefits may also get social services benefits offered by their state or county. These services may include medical help, food and other such social services. The exact information can be taken from the local social service department or public welfare office.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Someone getting SSI may also be eligible to get food under SNAP, earlier known as food stamp.


People getting SSI may also get Medicaid benefit which helps pay doctor and other hospital bills.

Help to Pay for Medicare

People who get SSI may get help in paying their Medicare premiums. Their state may pay the premium and in some cases, other Medicare expenses such as deductibles and coinsurance.

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