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How do I apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Supplemental Security Income is a safety-net program administered by the Social Security Administration that provides cash assistance to people with limited income and financial resources who are over 65, disabled or blind. Most people seeking SSI benefits must call Social Security at 800-772-1213 or visit their local Social Security office to apply. That goes for all those applying on the basis of being blind or over 65.

Disabled adults who are not blind may apply online if they meet all these criteria:

  • They are between 18 and 65.
  • They have never married.
  • They have not previously applied for SSI.
  • They are applying at the same time for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Social Security’s primary benefit program for disabled people. (It is permissible to receive Supplemental Security Income on top of your SSDI benefits.)

Completing the multistep online application can be a lengthy process, but you don’t have to do it in one sitting — the Social Security website allows you to save the form and return to it later.

If you are applying for SSI on behalf of a disabled child, you can start the process by filling out a Child Disability Report online. You will need to call 800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment with your local Social Security office to complete the SSI application.

Be prepared to get some papers together: You’ll need to extensively document your income, work history, financial assets, living arrangements and, if applying on the basis of blindness or disability, your medical history. Social Security has an online checklist.

Keep in mind

  • Supplemental Security Income is paid out of general U.S. Treasury funds, not from Social Security taxes. You need not have worked a certain amount, or paid FICA taxes, to be eligible.
  • SSI benefits are available to residents of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Northern Mariana Islands. Residents of other U.S. territories (including Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands) cannot receive SSI.

Published October 10, 2018

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