Supplemental Security Income or SSI, is a program administered by the Social Security Administration. It is intended to provide income to those in need for food, clothing, and shelter. This benefit is paid to disabled individuals or the elderly (over the age of 65), that meet the income requirements for the program. The income requirements for SSI are carefully enforced by Social Security; only people with limited income and resources who are blind, disabled, or elderly will qualify for the program. This is in part because the money for the SSI program comes from Federal income tax revenues, not the Social Security Trust Fund. These benefits are not based on an individual’s work history; they are based on the individual’s need.
If you qualify for SSI benefits you will also receive Medicaid health insurance from your State. Medicaid is a health insurance plan for those in need. Many States use SSI eligibility to decide if an individual is eligible for their Medicaid program. Some States have coined their own names for these programs and may not call them Medicaid. One example of this is the State of California; in California Medicaid is called MediCal. For more information on the Medicaid program refer to our section on Medicaid. In addition to eligibility for Medicaid, SSI eligibility may entitle you to food stamps from your State. Contact social services in your area to see if you qualify for food stamps.
To qualify for the SSI program you must first meet the program requirements. You need to be a legal resident of the United States, and not leave the country for more than 30 days. For the most part you must be a citizen of the United States to be eligible for SSI benefits. There are some cases where resident aliens can also receive SSI benefits.
You will also need to meet medical and non-medical requirements for the SSI program. If you are under the age of 65 you need to meet the disability requirements and be evaluated by your states Disability Determination Service (DDS). The basic requirements for disability are that you have a condition that will prevent you from working for 12 months or longer. Children under the age of 18 may also receive SSI benefits and must also meet similar disability requirements and be evaluated by the State. If you are over the age of 65 you are not required to meet the disability requirement and must only meet the non-medical requirements for SSI.
The non-medical requirements for the SSI program are that an individual must have limited income and resources. Limited income is any money you may receive on a weekly or monthly basis from your job, pension, unemployment benefits, VA benefits, relatives, or friends. Limited resources refers to money you have in the bank, investment accounts such as IRA/401k, stocks, savings bonds, mutual funds, or CDs. It also includes any property you own other than your primary residence, your vehicles (one is excluded), life insurances policies, and trust funds. The sum value of these resources is limited to $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a married couple. If your assets add up to more than this value you will not be eligible for SSI benefits.
If you are approved for SSI benefits the amount you receive each month is based on the income you already have. In most states, the maximum amount you can receive each month in 2006 is $603 per month. Some States, such as California and New York, pay an additional supplement on top of the Federal amount of $603. If you live in one of the States that pays an additional supplement this amount will be explained to you in your award letter.
To apply for SSI benefits schedule an appointment with your local Social Security office by calling the 800 number. The number to call is 1-800-772-1213. You may be able to set up a telephone interview instead of going into the local office; however, you will still need to provide proof of citizenship in the form of an original birth certificate or passport, and sign the application. If you are applying for your child you may be required to have an in-office appointment, as you will be filling out additional paperwork to become your child’s payee.