How to Receive Supplemental Security Income

October 15th, 2020

Once you reach retirement age, most Americans are able to take advantage of social benefit programs. Two of the most well-known, Social Security and Medicare, are milestones. Unfortunately, though, these aren’t always enough to help people get by. For this reason, Supplemental Security Income can help patch the gaps. Here’s everything you need to know about this program.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) aids seniors with a disability. Specifically, SSI helps seniors who face face financial hardships. Not all seniors will qualify, but this is a valuable resource for those who do. Eligibility is based on disability, resources, income, and citizenship.

What types of disabilities qualify?

There are three different ways to meet the disability qualification. 

  • You are 65 or older.
  • You are blind. If corrective lenses cannot make your vision better than 20/200, the Social Security Administration considers you legally blind. You also meet this qualification if your visual field is 20 degrees or less in your better eye.
  • If you have a mental or physical impairment (as determined by a doctor) that causes you to be unable to work. Additionally, the impairment must last for at least 12 months. It also counts if a doctor expects it to last 12 months or longer.

What qualifies as “limited resources”?

If you meet one of the qualifications above and have limited resources, you may be eligible for SSI. The SSA considers limited resources as having less than $2,000 for individuals or less than $3,000 for a couple. “Resources” can include: 

  • Cash
  • Bank accounts
  • Vehicles
  • Personal Property
  • Life Insurance
  • Investments
  • Possessions that you could sell for cash

There are, however, some things resources don’t include, such as your home and land where you live, your car, life insurance valued at less than $1,500, burial plots, and burial funds (up to $1,500). 

Does other income affect whether you qualify? 

Yes. If you receive income from working, the first $65 per month you earn won’t affect your SSI eligibility. However, if you earn more than this amount your benefit could be reduced by half of the amount you earn over $65. For example, if you earn $265 per month from work, this means your benefits would be reduced by $100. 

Non-work income counts toward eligibility, too. Benefits from Social Security, Veterans Affairs, worker’s compensation, unemployment, and even gifts from family and friends all count toward the reduction rule. However, the SSA will only exempt the first $20 of this income (instead of $65). 

Certain benefits, such as SNAP and energy assistance, do not count as income.

How does citizenship affect you?

You don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to collect SSI benefits, but immigrants must meet additional criteria. First, you must meet the Department of Homeland Security’s definition of a qualified non-citizen. Then, you must meet at least one of the following five conditions: 

  • You were legally living in the U.S. and receiving SSI on August 22, 1996.
  • You were Lawfully Admitted for Permanent Residence and have 10 qualifying years of earnings.
  • You’re a current, active member of the U.S. Armed Forces or an honorably discharged veteran.
  • You were legally living in the U.S. on August 22, 1996 and are blind or disabled.
  • Certain categories of people may receive SSI for seven years (maximum) from the date they were granted qualified non-citizen status.

If you meet these requirements and are able to maintain them, Social Security SSI will provide a monthly payment. Individuals can receive up to $733, and couples can receive up to $1,100. Anyone can apply, but be sure to have your Social Security card, birth certificate, and housing, bank, and employment records handy. 

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