Supplemental Security Income

Find out Who Qualifies for SSI
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Who qualifies for SSI?

If you're caring for someone who's 65 or older, or someone of any age who's blind or disabled, who has very low income and few assets, she may be eligible for SSI (Supplemental Security Income), a monthly government cash benefit. This is true even if she owns her home.

SSI payments vary between about $300 to $1,000 per month per person ($500 to $1,200 for a couple). The exact amount depends on:

  • How much other income the recipients have.
  • Which state they live in.

Low income is one SSI qualification

An older adult or disabled person may be eligible for SSI benefits if she has roughly $1,500 or less a month in income from all sources, and few assets. The eligibility amount is different in each state and depends on a complicated set of rules, with some income counted but other income not. For example, if you provide the person with housing or food, that may be counted in determining eligibility.
Because it's difficult to know exactly how much income someone may have and still qualify for SSI, if she's anywhere close to that $1,500-per-month level, it's worth applying.

Having few assets is another SSI qualification

To qualify for SSI, a person must have no more than $2,000 in assets ($3,000 for a couple). This includes any joint accounts the person has and any partial interests in property. In counting assets, however, the SSI program does not count:

*A home, regardless of its value, as long as the person lives in it.

*A car, up to a market value of $4,500; and if the car is used for work or commuting, is needed to get medical care, or is specially equipped for a disability, there is no market-value limit.

*Personal property and household goods, up to a current value of $2,000; expensive property needed for medical assistance -- like a wheelchair or special bed -- is not counted, nor is property used in work for self-support (such as tools or machines).

*Wedding and engagement rings, regardless of value.

*Life insurance policies with a face value of no more than $1,500 per policyholder.

*Burial spaces and a funeral and burial fund of up to $1,500.

How do you help an older adult apply for SSI?

An older adult or disabled person can apply for SSI benefits at any local Social Security office. You can do several things to assist.

First, help gather the necessary paperwork (for both spouses, if a couple is applying):

  • Social Security number
  • Proof of age (not necessary if the person is already collecting Social Security benefits), such as birth certificate, passport, baptism record, immigration papers
  • Documents that show all income, such as bank records, income tax returns, wage statements
  • Documents that show all financial assets, such as bank statements, stock certificates, car registration
  • Papers that indicate what the applicant's living arrangement is, such as a rental agreement or mortgage documents, or a confirmation letter from the homeowner if she lives with family or friends

Next, locate the nearest Social Security office by going online at the Social Security Administration website's Local Office Search. Call the local office to make an appointment.

If you or the person you're helping has any questions before or after the appointment, you can call the Social Security Administration's toll-free phone number at 800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. When the day of the appointment comes, you may accompany the person you're caring for to the Social Security office and help with the SSI application process.

Joseph L. Matthews

Joseph Matthews is an attorney and the author of numerous books, including Social Security, Medicare, and Government Pensions, Long-Term Care: How to Plan and Pay for It; How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim; and The Lawyer Who Blew up His Desk. See full bio

7 months, said...

I am 55 with mental health and physical issues in addition to suffering from Early Alzheimer's. My husband left. He has been giving me 1/2 the mortgage but that is it. My daughter works two minimum wage jobs. I watch her 2 yr old son as nest I can. I will default on my loan uf I cannot get any assistance. Being upside down on the loan makes selling right now would be foolish. What are we to do?

about 2 years, said...

Can I use Medi Cal benefits along with SSD to go to min home care living?

over 4 years, said...

It just reassures me SSDI does not care for me or what it is doing to my family. My mom however has purchased a burial insurance she could use and I wouldn't be in there way anymore.

over 4 years, said...

The info was concise and informative.

over 5 years, said...

Thanks for the information on SSI,I have learned a lot of important information.

about 6 years, said...

I'm 63 years old and without health insurance, is there any thing I can do, so I can go to the Doctors for some tests??

about 6 years, said...

SSS no longer limits the value of a carvto 4,500.

about 6 years, said...

$1500 income per person? Would you know what's income limit for couple?

over 7 years, said...

I appreciate the information

over 7 years, said...

My parents recently went to assisted living through a medi-cal waiver program. They will also be getting SSI to supplement the board and care rate and minimal living expenses. In the meantime, their mobile home was totally burned down while they were transitioning to assisted living. Their home insurance will give them a lump sum of money. Will they be cut off of medi-cal and SSI?

over 7 years, said...

What we need are clear cut defined information and not generalities. The biggest problem today is lack of funds to expand research and this means that as caregivers we are relegated to a life of caring for our loved ones who have this unfortunate disease. We fight and conquer social diseases but dementria and AD are left to aricept and the ill gotten gains of that manufacturer gained from sufferers. We need specific advice not directions. Will the Republicans come forth with a plan to assist the caregivers or are we living in the sky on the way to the moon.

almost 8 years, said...

Reading that there may be help out there for me.... is most valuable to me because even though I have "family" I feel very alone sometimes. I believe my family always thought of me as strong... nothing I couldn't do. I didn't need any help, and never asked for any. Therefore, in their busy lives, they are unaware that I do need help sometimes. I want to tell them, but it is very hard. Their day is not long enough for all they want to do.

almost 8 years, said...

How and when may I apply for SSI? My SSA is $722 because I took an early retirement...Will I qualify for supplement? I will be 65 on February 23, 2010. May I apply before then?

over 9 years, said...

If you'd like to see if you qualify for SSI before going to a Social Security Office, there is an online tool here: