About Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
The Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) program pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources.
Unlike SSDI, individuals do not need to have worked a certain amount of time prior to becoming disabled in order to qualify for this benefit. While there is no work requirement, the Income and Resources requirements for SSI are incredibly detailed and strict.
The Difference Between SSDI and SSI
Both SSDI and SSI are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), however they are separate programs.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based program, whereas Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is more like an insurance plan which is paid into via Social Security taxes, together with Retirement.
Both SSDI and SSI follow the same definition of disability and both use the same application form too. Everyone who applies for Disability benefits also applies for SSI and vice versa.
Overview of SSI Requirements
There are two parts to qualifying for SSI:
1.) Having an eligible disability (or age 65+) and
2.) Meeting the limited income and resources requirement
The Social Security Administration lists what is counted as Income for SSI and what is counted for Resources in their guide to "Understanding SSI". The lists of what is and isn't counted is long, detailed, and uses several mathematical formulas. While it maybe seem detailed, they state that it "is not a complete review of all SSI related rules and policies. It only provides general information and references." They urge you to call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 or visit your local office for help determining your eligibility.
Here is a overly-simplified summary of SSI:
- The maximum SSI benefit per month (for 2023):
- $914 for individuals
- $1,371 for an eligible couple
- Nearly all income, earned or unearned (unemployment benefits, pension, gifts, lottery winnings, inheritance), is then deducted from your monthly SSI benefit. Even food or housing "that you get for free or for less than its fair market value" is counted as income.
- You cannot receive SSI benefits if your resources exceed:
- $2,000 for individuals
- $3,000 for a couple
- NOTE: This dollar amount has not been increased since 1984. With inflation, this amount should be 181.67% higher now.
- What's included in this Resource Limit:
- Savings or Bank Accounts
- Stocks and bonds
- Additional vehicles (1 vehicle excluded)
- Anything of value (boat, trailer, ATV, camper, land)
- "Anything else you own which could be changed to cash and used for food or shelter"
These are the 5 questions SSA uses to determine if your impairment qualifies you for disability benefits. This is also known as the 5-Step Sequential Evaluation.
- Are you working?
You may qualify if you are either no longer working or are you making less than the “Substantial Gainful Activity” (SGA) amount. This amount increases with inflation each year. Find the current SGA amount for this year, and the select few exceptions to SGA, in this article by Attorney Balin.
- Is your condition “severe”?
Per the SSA, “Your condition must significantly limit your ability to do basic work-related activities, such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting, or remembering – for at least 12 months. If it does not, we will find that you are not disabled.” Note: this rule does not mean you have to wait 12 months to file, rather your condition just needs to be expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.
- Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions?
Here is the SSA’s list of medical conditions that they “consider severe enough that it prevents a person from doing substantial gainful activity”. We go more in depth into the most common disabling conditions here. You can absolutely still qualify if your condition is not on this list, but it can be more difficult to prove your case. We recommend having a lawyer with experience winning these kinds of cases; contact us for a free consultation.
- Can you do the work you did previously?
Based on jobs you performed over the past 15 years.
- Can you do any other type of work?
Per SSA, “If you can’t do the work you did in the past, we look to see if there is other work you could do despite your medical impairment(s).”
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