Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is a federal benefit program administered by the Social Security Administration that provides safety-net financial support for people in need. You may qualify for monthly SSI payments if:
- you are 65 or older, blind or disabled;
- you are a U.S. citizen or lawful resident;
- and you have very limited income and financial resources.
The SSI standard for limited income, in 2021, is income of up to $794 a month for an individual or $1,191 a month for a couple. (These are also the maximum monthly payments from federal funds for SSI recipients; most states offer supplemental payments.) What constitutes income is somewhat elastic; Social Security has a long list of what types of earnings, payments and non-cash assistance it considers “countable income” for the purpose of determining SSI eligibility and calculating payments. (If you receive Social Security benefits, they count.)
Similarly, not all assets are “countable resources” for considering SSI claims. Broadly, countable resources include cash and financial assets that can be turned into cash, such as stocks, bonds or property. They do not include the home you live in, a vehicle you rely on for transportation, or household goods, among other things. To qualify, your countable resources should not exceed $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple.
These are just the broad outlines of eligibility for SSI — claims are evaluated by Social Security on a case-by-case basis, subject to a complex set of rules and calculations. You’ll find more information in the Social Security pamphlet “You May Be Able to Get Supplemental Security Income (SSI)” and on the SSI home page. Social Security’s Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool can help you determine if you might qualify.
Keep in mind
- Supplemental Security Income benefits are 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.
- Forty-six states and the District of Columbia offer supplemental SSI payments. (The states that don't are Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota and West Virginia.) States that provide additional payments may have their own rules regarding income and eligibility.
- SSI is not available to residents of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Guam. Residents of the Northern Mariana Islands can receive SSI, but the territory does not supplement federal payments. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed in March 2021 to hear a case challenging the SSI exclusion in Puerto Rico.
Updated May 27, 2021
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