What is Supplemental Security Income
Supplemental security income or SSI is a welfare program for persons who are aged or disabled. Its purpose is to supplement the income of an elderly or disabled person whose income and assets are below a certain level. The threshold is significantly below the federal poverty level.
SSI is authorized under Title 42, Chapter 7, Subchapter XVI of the United States code (federal statutes). It is funded by the general treasury of United States, not the Social Security trust fund. Nonetheless, the Social Security administration is responsible for making eligibility determinations and authorizing payments.
Resource and income eligibility provisions are found at section 1382 of chapter 7. (Subchapter XVI dealing with Supplemental Security Income contains sections 1381–1385 chapter 7)
Currently, to be eligible, an individual must have less than $2000 of assets, excluding what is considered "non-countable resources" and a couple must have less than $3000 of assets.
The income eligibility requirements are complicated. If an individual has no other income, the maximum federal amount is $733 per month. Some states provide additional assistance. If two persons eligible for SSI benefits are married, and have no other income, the maximum federal benefit amount is $1100.
If a person has income from another source, SSI benefits will be reduced by subtracting the monthly countable income. Earned income is treated differently than unearned income.
Persons who are over 65 years old and meet the income and asset eligibility requirements automatically are eligible for SSI. Persons who are younger than 65 must be considered disabled. There are regulations detailing how disability determinations are made. There are different regulations for adults than for children.
In January 2015, 8.2 million people received monthly federal SSI payments averaging $526. Total cash payments under the SSI program during calendar year 2014 was $54.2 billion and the cost to administer the SSI program was $4.1 billion.
During calendar year 2014, 1.9 million people applied for SSI benefits based on blindness or disability. This was a decrease from 2013. Of those, 812,000 became new recipients of SSI benefits, down 11% from 2013.
Most SSI recipients are eligible for Medicaid, automatically. Currently 40 states, District of Columbia and the Northern Mariana Islands use SSI criteria. 10 states use eligibility criteria more restrictive than those of the SSI program.
A more detailed explanation of eligibility requirements are found in other parts of this website.