What Is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Supplemental Security Income is a social program for Americans with disabilities. People who qualify can receive a maximum of $914 a month as a single person or $1,371 a month as a couple. You can apply for SSI online, over the phone or by appointment at your local Social Security Administration office.

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    Lindsey Crossmier

    Lindsey Crossmier

    Financial Writer

    Lindsey Crossmier is an accomplished writer with experience working for The Florida Review and Bookstar PR. As a financial writer, she covers Medicare, life insurance and dental insurance topics for RetireGuide. Research-based data drives her work.

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    Lamia Chowdhury, editor for RetireGuide.com

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    Brandon Renfro, RetireGuide Reviewer

    Brandon Renfro, Ph.D., CFP®, RICP®, EA

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  • Published: March 6, 2023
  • Updated: June 22, 2023
  • 6 min read time
  • This page features 9 Cited Research Articles
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How to Cite RetireGuide.com's Article

APA Crossmier, L. (2023, June 22). What Is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? RetireGuide.com. Retrieved June 17, 2024, from https://www.retireguide.com/social-security/disability-benefits/ssi/

MLA Crossmier, Lindsey. "What Is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?" RetireGuide.com, 22 Jun 2023, https://www.retireguide.com/social-security/disability-benefits/ssi/.

Chicago Crossmier, Lindsey. "What Is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?" RetireGuide.com. Last modified June 22, 2023. https://www.retireguide.com/social-security/disability-benefits/ssi/.

Key Takeaways
  • Supplemental Security Income is a means-based social program that offers monthly payments to people with disabilities and limited income and resources.
  • To qualify for the program, you must be 65 or older, blind or have a disability that prevents you from earning more than $1,470 a month. You must also have $2,000 or less in assets as an individual or $3,000 or less in assets as a couple.
  • You can apply for SSI online, over the phone or by requesting an appointment with the Social Security Administration.

Who Is Eligible for SSI?

To be eligible for Supplemental Security Income, you must be a U.S. citizen or a qualified alien; live in one of the 50 states, the Northern Mariana Islands or the District of Columbia; and never leave the country for more than 30 consecutive days.

In addition, you must also qualify in the following ways:
  • You must be 65 or older, blind or have a medically diagnosed disability that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in a death.
  • You can’t earn more than $1,470 per month because of your disability.
  • You can’t have more than $2,000 in assets as a single person (or more than $3,000 in assets if you’re married).

You must also pass a financial assessment and a medical review before gaining SSI benefits. You can expect a three- to five-month wait before you’re accepted into the program.

What Benefits Do They Receive?

SSI recipients receive a monthly check based on their financial needs, and the maximum monthly payments vary annually.

The maximum monthly SSI amounts you can receive in 2023 are:
  • $914 for a single person
  • $1,371 for a married couple if both people are eligible for the program
  • $458 for an essential person or caregiver

Most states offer additional payments to supplement SSI payments. These payments vary depending on the state, your income and your living arrangements.

Some states automatically enroll SSI recipients into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In other states, SSI recipients are eligible for SNAP but must file a separate application.

How Is SSI Funded?

General tax revenues pay for SSI. Those include revenues from personal income taxes and corporate taxes. Although the Social Security Administration oversees SSI benefits, Social Security taxes don’t fund them.

SSI Income Limits

The government adjusts SSI payments based on your income. In this calculation, the government treats earned income and unearned income differently.

SSI Income Limits for Earned vs. Unearned Income
  • For unearned income, all but the first $20 of income is subtracted from your monthly SSI payments.
  • For earned income, half of all earnings after the first $65 are subtracted from your monthly SSI payments.

These adjustments create effective income limits for the program. The maximum amount of unearned income you can receive each month while on SSI is $934 for a single person and $1,391 for an eligible couple.

The maximum amount you can earn each month while getting SSI benefits is $1,913 for a single person and $2,827 for an eligible couple.

If you qualify for SSI and your live-in partner does not, their income and resources will still be counted toward your SSI determination. If you’re younger than 18, then your parents’ income and resources will be assessed instead of yours.

Social Insurance vs. Means-Tested Programs

SSI is a “means-tested” program available only to people with limited income and resources. “Means tested” signifies that you must qualify through a review of your personal finances. It’s important to not confuse SSI with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is a social insurance program.

The difference between SSDI and SSI is that SSDI is for people with disabilities who earned enough Social Security work credits over their lifetime. Disability benefits amounts vary depending on how much each recipient paid into the program when working. Neither eligibility nor payment size is tied to financial needs.

SSI Implication for Medicaid

Many SSI recipients also receive Medicaid coverage but obtaining Medicare coverage varies from state to state.

In most states, anyone who receives SSI benefits gets automatically enrolled into Medicaid. People in these states don’t need to submit a Medicaid application — they will simply receive a welcome package a few weeks after their SSI approval.

Some other states require SSI recipients to manually apply for Medicaid, but typically, people who receive SSI also qualify for Medicaid. You can apply for the program if you need medical coverage.

How To Apply for SSI

You’ll need various documents and pieces of information in order to apply for SSI. Have the following information ready when it comes time for it.

Information Needed To Apply
  • Social Security Number
  • Date of birth
  • Mailing address
  • Phone number
  • Email address

Later in the application process, you’ll need certain documentation. This information may take time to gather, so allow yourself time to ensure accuracy.

Documentation Needed To Apply
  • Proof of your age, such as a public or religious birth record
  • Proof of citizenship, such as a U.S. birth certificate or passport, or legal immigration documents
  • Proof of income, such as pay stubs or tax returns
  • Proof of resources, such as bank statements or tax appraisal statements
  • Proof of living arrangements, such as rent receipts, property tax bills or details on household expenses
  • Medical documentation for your disability, including medical reports, your doctors' contact information and the names and dosages of any medication you take

If you apply as an adult, you’ll also need your work history. This includes a list of the companies you worked for, job title, the hours you worked and a description of duties you performed.

If you apply on behalf of a child, you’ll need contact information for people who can describe how the child’s condition affects their life. This may include teachers, caregivers and anyone else who regularly interacts with the child.

Request an Appointment

Staffers at your local Social Security Administration office can help you apply for SSI benefits. Request an appointment online or by calling 1-800-772-1213 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Start an Application Online

You can also apply for SSI online on the Social Security Administration website. You will need to mail original copies of your application documents to your local SSA office as part of this process.

Frequently Asked Questions About SSI

Are you allowed to earn income while getting SSI?
Yes, you can earn some money while receiving SSI payments. However, half of all the income you earn after the first $65 will be subtracted from your payment each month.
Can you collect Social Security disability and SSI at the same time?
Yes, you can receive SSI and SSDI benefits at the same time. However, all but the first $20 of your monthly SSDI payments will be subtracted from your SSI payments.
Last Modified: June 22, 2023

9 Cited Research Articles

  1. Social Security Administration. (2023, January). A Guide to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Groups and Organizations. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-11015.pdf
  2. Social Security Administration. (2023). SSI Federal Payment Amounts For 2023. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/SSI.html
  3. National Council on Aging. (2022, March 16). SSI vs. SSDI: The Differences, Benefits and How To Apply. Retrieved from https://ncoa.org/article/ssi-vs-ssdi-what-are-these-benefits-how-they-differ
  4. Social Security Administration. (2022, March). Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-11000.pdf
  5. Social Security Administration. (2022). Understanding Supplemental Security Income SSI and Other Government Programs. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-other-ussi.htm
  6. Social Security Administration. (2022). Understanding Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Overview. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-over-ussi.htm
  7. Social Security Administration. (n.d). Substantial Gainful Activity. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/sga.html
  8. Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/
  9. Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Get Started To Apply for SSI. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/ssi/start.html