Who is eligible for SSI benefits?
The Supplemental Security Income program or SSI is administered by the Social Security Administration. It provides monthly benefits to disabled, blind, or elderly individuals that have few resources and a limited income. For struggling individuals, SSI benefits can be lifesaving. Often, SSI is confused with SSD, which stands for Social Security Disability. While the two programs both provide benefits for the disabled, they have completely different programs with distinct eligibility requirements.
SSI vs. SSD
It is important to understand the basic differences between the SSI and SSD programs so that you can apply for the appropriate benefits. SSI is a strictly need based program. Only those with limited income and assets can receive SSI benefits. You do not need to have a work history in order to qualify.
On the other hand, SSD insurance is funded through payroll taxes. As such, you must have worked for a certain number of years and have made contributions to the SSD fund in the form of Social Security taxes. SSI recipients must additionally be under the age of 65 and disabled.
Qualifying for SSI Benefits
You will need to meet several basic qualifications in order to receive SSI benefits. First, you must either be over the age of 65 or disabled. The SSA provides a listing of conditions that could meet disability requirements. Disability per the SSA means that you are unable to perform a substantial gainful activity. Evidence that you have been unable to hold a position in the last year and will continue to be unable to work in the next 12 months will support a finding of disability.
In addition to meeting age or disability requirements, you must also qualify for SSI financially. SSI recipients cannot own more than $2,000 in assets individually or over $3,000 for families. However, certain assets will not be counted towards these limits. For example, your primary residence, your vehicle, and most personal effects will not count towards the financial resource limit.
Your income might not exclude you from receipt of SSI benefits, but it will diminish how much you may be able to receive. Not all income is counted, however, including your income tax refunds, the first $65 of your monthly earnings and half of all earnings over this amount, and scholarship funds. Contact an SSI attorney for further assistance with applying for SSI benefits or appealing the denial of your claim.