Almost 8 million people currently receive monthly benefits through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Although it mainly provides income to individuals who are blind or disabled, it is not, strictly speaking, a disability program, such as Social Security Disability(SSD). You may also qualify for SSI if you are 65 years of age and meet the financial and other requirements for the program. Children who are blind or have other disabilities may also qualify for SSI.
The best way to learn whether you meet the eligibility rules to receive monthly payments is to speak with a professional disability advocate. In the meantime, the following gives you the information you need to understand the process to qualify for SSI along with an explanation of its guidelines for eligibility.
What is SSI?
Supplemental Security Income is a needs-based program providing monthly benefits to eligible individuals. The use of the term “needs-based” refers to limitations placed on the income and the value of the assets an otherwise eligible person owns.
The maximum monthly benefit payable to an individual meeting the criteria to qualify for SSI is $794. This reflects an annual cost-of-living increase for 2021. The maximum monthly payment increased to $1,191 in 2021 for an individual with an eligible spouse.
Applicants must meet the financial requirements of the program, which means you must disclose all assets and income to the SSA, including:
- Income from employment.
- Social Security benefits.
- Income from pensions.
- Military retirement payments.
This is not a complete list of income sources that may affect your eligibility for benefits. Also bear in mind that some of the income you earn may not be counted against you for determining whether you qualify for benefits, such as:
- Food stamps.
- Shelter provided to you by nonprofit organizations.
- The first $20 of income you receive each month.
- The first $65 of income you earn from employment and half of the amount received from employment in excess of the first $65.
You must also disclose the value of food and shelter that friends, family members, or others provide to you. For example, if a relative pays the rent on the apartment you live in or simply allows you to live with them without charging rent, the value of the shelter they provide to you must be disclosed as income. The same would be true of food given to you by others. Special rules apply for determining the financial eligibility of blind or disabled children.
The amount of income you may receive and still qualify for SSI depends upon the state in which you live. Income limits differ from state to state, so meeting with a professional disability advocate for advice and assistance can address how specific guidelines may or may not apply to your particular situation.
Eligibility also depends upon the value of the assets you own, including real estate, bank accounts, cash, and other items. These resources cannot exceed $3,000 in value for a married couple or $2,000 for an individual. The value of a house that you own and live in does not count toward the total resources you are allowed. The same is true for your personal car.
Who is eligible for SSI?
Now that you know some of the financial criteria, you may still be wondering, “How to qualify for SSI?” If you meet the financial and residency requirements and are at least 65 years of age, you may qualify for benefits. Younger individuals may qualify provided they are blind or disabled.
The SSA defines “disabled” as a physical or mental impairment that prevents the person from engaging in substantial gainful activity. The impairment must either be expected to cause the person to die, or it has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months.
“Blindness” is defined as visual acuity of 20/200 or less for the person’s better eye when using corrective lenses. A person with a visual field that subtends at its widest diameter to no more than 20 degrees may also meet the test for blindness.
Financial and residency eligibility guidelines
Applicants must also meet the financial and residency requirements of the program. During the application process for SSI, you must disclose all income that you receive, including:
1). Income from employment
2). Social Security benefits
3). Income from pensions
4). Military retirement payments
You must also disclose the value of food and lodging that friends, family members, or others provide to you. For example, if relatives pay the rent on the apartment you live in or simply allow you to live with them without charging rent, the value of the shelter they provide to you must be disclosed as income.
Eligibility also depends upon the value of the assets you own, including real estate, bank accounts, cash, and other items. These resources cannot exceed $3,000 in value for a married couple or $2,000 for an individual.
There are many resources, which is the term used by SSA when referring to what you own, that are not counted against you for eligibility purposes. Some of the assets you own that may not affect eligibility include the following:
- A home you own and use as your principal residence.
- Personal effects, such as clothing, wedding rings, and engagement rings.
- Burial plots for you and members of your immediate family.
- One vehicle provided it is used by you or a household member for transportation.
Another requirement to qualify for SSI is being a citizen residing in the United States. If you are not a citizen, you still may be eligible under special rules the SSA has for aliens.
Getting help with your application for SSI
A disability advocate can help you to overcome some of the complexity of the process to qualify for SSI. London Disability is a professional disability advocacy company offering advice and much-needed guidance. Contact them today for a free consultation.