SSI Elegibility, Benefits Eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits

  1. Supplemental Security Income or SSI is a Federal assistance program that makes monthly payments to help people of limited means who are blind, disabled or of senior age. This article will help you determine your eligibility for SSI disability benefits payments.

    Eligibility for SSI Disability Benefits

    SSI is administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA.) In order to qualify for SSI disability benefits, an applicant must meet certain disability, financial and residency requirements.

    Disability Requirements for SSI

    An SSI applicant must be (i) legally blind; or (ii) be age 65 or older; or (iii) have a permanent disability that meets the standards set forth by the Social Security Administration.
    • Blindness

      Being legally blind, whether totally or partially blind, automatically qualifies a person of any age for SSI. It doesn’t matter when you became blind, even if you lost your sight and became blind later in life. Even if your sight difficulties do not rise to the level of “statutory blindness”, there may still be exceptions under which you may qualify.
    • Over age 65

      People over the age of 65 may qualify for SSI benefits pending meeting other SSI eligibility requirements.
    • A permanent disability

      For minors who are under the age of 18, a qualifying disability under SSI means having a medically diagnosed mental or physical impairment which is a severe functional limitation, and is either (a) is expected to result in death or (b) has lasted or is expected to last for at least twelve consecutive months. For adults who are age 18 or older, a qualifying disability under SSI means having a medically diagnosed mental or physical impairment which prevents a person from any substantial gainful activity, and either (a) is expected to result in death or (b) has lasted or is expected to last for at least twelve consecutive months. As a result of being mentally or physically disabled, the SSI applicant is unable to obtain or adequately perform work.

    Financial Requirements

    Limited Resources / Assets

    An individual person may qualify for SSI if the resources owned are worth $2,000 or less. A couple may qualify for SSI if their combined resources are worth $3,000 or less. Items not included in calculating eligibility for SSI include:
    • Home and property within which a person lives
    • Life insurance policies that have a face value of $1,500 or less
    • Automobile (typically included but not automatic)
    • Family burial plots and up to $1,500 in burial funds for each the individual and for a spouse

    SSI Allowable Limits on Income:

    The income limits for SSI disability benefits includes money earned, Social Security benefits, pensions and the value of anything received from someone else such as food and shelter. In addition, states have different rules regarding SSI limits, requirements and payments. Essentially, the higher income the less the SSI benefit will be. As of 2011, an individual can earn up to $1,433 before SSI benefits are reduced to zero, which includes the $674 per month that an SSI recipient receives and an $85 exemption. More information about the SSI allowable limit is available on the SSA Supplemental Security Income SSI Income page.

    The following income is the most common type may be excluded from the SSI income limit determinations:
    • the first $20 of monthly income
    • the first $65 of monthly earnings and 50% of the excess
    • food stamps received, food and aid from a shelter and other State or local government assistance
    • income tax refunds
    • home energy assistance
    • interest or dividends excluded under Federal law
    • grants, scholarships, fellowships or gifts used for tuition and educational expenses
    • student earnings (up to $1,640 monthly, annual ceiling of $6,600 annually)

    Residency Requirements for SSI Eligibility

    The SSI applicant must be a U.S. citizen or a resident alien who (a) is in good standing and not subject to deportation, (b) is a resident of the U.S., and (c) has not left the country for more than 30 consecutive days.

    The Amount of SSI Payments

    For 2011, the basic monthly SSI payment amounts are provided nationwide:
    • $674 for one person
    • $1,011 for a couple
    The actual amount an SSI applicant may receive will vary due to other factors such as the state where the SSI applicant lives (which may add supplemental SSI benefits), whether other family members have income that may reduce the applicant’s SSI payment.

    You may wish to speak to a disability lawyer or an expert in Supplemental Security Income benefits in order to best understand your rights to receive SSI benefits.
    Health, Medical & Social:
    Social Security - SSI - Supplemental Security Income

    Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.


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