November 21, 2018

Supplemental Security Income

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to assist elderly, blind, or disabled individuals who have low-incomes.  SSI is funded from general revenue, not the Social Security trust funds.


There are specific requirements for SSI eligibility.  Individuals must be

  • Age 65 or older;
  • Blind; or
  • Disabled;


  • Have limited income; and
  • Have limited resources; and
  • Is a U.S. citizen or national; and
  • Is a resident of one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, or the North Mariana Islands; and
  • Is does not leave the court for 30 consecutive days or more; and
  • Applies for all other possible benefits the individual is eligible for; and
  • Releases all financial records to the SSA; and
  • Files a complete application.

Source: Social Security Administration

Definitions Related to Eligibility

Blindness is defined as statutory blindness, which means a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye using correcting lenses; or a visual field limitation in the better eye where the field of vision is no more than 20 degrees.

Disability has one definition for children and a different definition for adults.  For children, the child must have a “medically determinable physical or mental impairment” that limits everyday functions and either is expected to result in death or has lasted for 12 months or more.  For adults, an individual is 18 years-of-age or older, has a “medically determinable physical or mental impairment” that prevents the individual from being able to work to support themselves and either is expected to result in death or has lasted for 12 months or more.

Income includes earnings from a job; money “received from other sources, such as Social Security benefits, workers compensation, unemployment benefits, the Department of Veterans Affairs, friends or relatives; and free food and shelter.”  There is some income that does not count in an SSI determination.  To see what is not counted, refer to the Supplemental Security Income page on the SSA website.

Resources are things you own and include: cash, bank accounts, stocks, U.S. savings bonds, and, vehicles, personal property, life insurance, and any items that can be converted to cash.  For more detailed information about what is counted as resources, see the Supplemental Security Income Resources page on the SSA website.


Where an individual resides can impact SSI eligibility.  An individual who lives in a hospital, nursing home, prison or jail are generally not eligible for SSI.  If an individual pays their own housing and food costs, they can get up to the maximum SSI payment.  If an individual only pays part of their housing and food costs or does not pay for housing and food, their possible “SSI benefit may be reduced by up to one-third.”   If an individual is homeless, they can still receive SSI benefits and possibly qualify for subsidized housing.  For more information about living arrangements, the SSI webpage  has more detailed information.


SSI has a work incentive program to assist individuals with disabilities to try to achieve independence.  Some of the work incentives allow the SSA to not come some income and resources.  Some work incentives will allow an individual to continue receiving Medicaid even if an individual stops receiving SSI cash benefits.

If you have questions about applying for Supplemental Security benefits or about the SSI you already receive, contact our knowledgeable Social Security attorneys today at 1-800-803-5555.