How Does Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Work?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a government program geared to financially assist visually impaired, other disabled and elderly people who do not have income or whose income is insufficient to meet their daily needs. Children who are handicapped are also entitled to receive the SSI benefits.

How the Program Works

The funding for Supplemental Security Income comes through the U.S. Treasury from general taxes including but not limited to corporate and personal income taxes. Each month, the government sends to beneficiaries cash that they can use to finance their basic needs. SSI may also cover the payment of beneficiaries' health-related costs through Medicaid. Meanwhile, the total amount an SSI recipient receives depends on his living arrangements. His benefit may be reduced if he lives in his own or someone else's house, a nursing home or hospital.

Eligibility Requirements

Aside from disability and age as bases for a person to qualify for SSI, the applicant should be a citizen/national of the United States or a qualified non-US citizen, someone who has not been outside the country for 30 successive days and someone who has limited or no income. Monthly resources must not exceed $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple. Meanwhile, the eligibility of a disabled child depends on his parent's deemed income and resources specified in the SSI regulations.

Application Process

To apply for SSI benefits, you can either call the toll free number 1-800-772-1213 or visit your local Social Security Administration office. You are required to provide original supplemental documents together with your application. The documents needed are these:

  • Social Security card/number
  • Proof of citizenship or legal residency
  • Proof of age (e.g., birth certificate)
  • Proof of income and resources
  • Proof of living arrangements
  • Medical records (for disabled applicants)
  • Work history
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