Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program designed to provide a subsistence level of income to people who are disabled, blind, or over the age of 65. The goal is to ensure that people in these situations do not become completely destitute.
Although SSI is administered by the Social Security Administration, it is not financed by the same FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) tax, so you don’t have to work to qualify for SSI. Instead, SSI is the most basic safety net the United States provides for people in these desperate situations.
Do You Qualify for SSI?
SSI is based on a few basic criteria. To qualify for SSI you must:
- Be over age 65, or
- Be legally blind, or
- Be disabled
- Be unable to maintain substantial gainful activity (SGA)
- Have limited resources
- Are an American Citizen or a member of a special class of aliens
If you meet one of the top categories and all of the lower ones, you may be able to qualify for SSI.
What Is Legally Blind for SSI?
To qualify as blind under SSI, you must have best spectacle corrected vision worse than 20/200.
What Does Disability Mean for SSI?
In general SSI uses the same disabling conditions that SSDI does.
What Counts as SGA for SSI?
In order to qualify for SSI, you must demonstrate that you are unable to maintain SGA. SGA is considered:
- Work performed for pay or profit, or
- Work that under other circumstances you might get paid or profit from, or
- Work intended for profit, even if you don’t make a profit
On a basic level, your work is considered SGA if you are averaging over $1,000 a month in income. However, if you are able to maintain full-time or part-time work that might be able to earn such wages under different circumstances, you may be considered capable of SGA even if you make no money.
What Are Resources?
“Resources” are generally money you have on hand, or anything that can be readily converted to money to help you pay for a subsistence living, such as food or shelter. If you have $2000 in resources as an individual or $3000 as a family, you are not yet eligible for SSI.
Resources not counted for the purposes of SSI include:
- Your home and the land it is on
- Basic household goods and personal effects (SSI won’t make you pawn your wedding or engagement rings)
- Burial spaces and burial funds up to $1500 per individual
- Life insurance policies if the total face value is $1500 or less
- One vehicle
- Retroactive SSI or Social Security benefits (deferred for nine months after receipt, after which they can be counted if you haven’t spent them)
- Grants, scholarships, gifts, or fellowships to pay for educational expenses (as long as they’re spent within 9 months)
These exemptions are intended to help people maintain a basic living.
An SSI Attorney Can Help
The qualifications for SSI may seem straightforward, but the application process is not. A social security attorney can help you gather all materials necessary to document your application properly and give yourself the best chance of getting benefits.
We offer free evaluations of your eligibility for SSI. Get your free evaluation today.