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What specific requirements must I satisfy to qualify for SSI?

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program makes payments to people with low income who are age 65 or older, or who are blind or have a disability.  The basic SSI amount is the same nationwide. However, many states add money to the basic benefit. Whether you can get SSI depends on (1) your income, and (2) your resources.
1. Income

Income is money you receive such as wages, Social Security benefits and pensions. Income also includes such things as food and shelter you receive. For example, if you are getting free room and board from a friend, the value of that food and shelter could count toward income. The amount of income you can receive each month to still be eligible for SSI depends in part on where you live.

However, Social Security does not count all of your income when it decides whether you qualify for SSI. For example, the SSA does not count:

  • The first $20 a month of most income you receive;
  • The first $65 a month you earn from working and half the amount over $65;
  • Food stamps;
  • Shelter you get from private nonprofit organizations; and
  • Most home energy assistance.

If you are married, the SSA will also include part of your spouse’s income and resources when deciding whether you qualify for SSI. If you are younger than age 18, the SSA will include part of your parents’ income and resources. If you are a student, some of the wages or scholarships you receive may not count. And, if you are a sponsored noncitizen, the SSA may include your sponsor’s income and resources.

If you are disabled but work, Social Security does not count wages you use to pay for items or services that help you to work. For example, if you need a wheelchair, the wages you use to pay for the wheelchair do not count as income when the SSA decides whether you qualify for SSI. Also, Social Security does not count any wages a blind person uses for work expenses. If you are disabled or blind, some of the income you use (or save) for training or to buy things you need to work also may not count.

2. Resources

Resources that the SSA counts in deciding whether you qualify for SSI include real estate, bank accounts, cash, stocks, and bonds. You may be able to get SSI if your resources are worth no more than $2,000. A couple may be able to get SSI if they have resources worth no more than $3,000. If you own property that you are trying to sell, you may be able to get SSI while trying to sell it.

Social Security does not count everything you own in deciding whether you have too many resources to qualify for SSI. For example, it does not count:

  • The home you live in and the land it is on;
  • Life insurance policies with a face value of $1,500 or less;
  • Your car (usually);
  • Burial plots for you and members of your immediate family; and
  • Up to $1,500 in burial funds for you and up to $1,500 in burial funds for your spouse.
Other rules you must satisfy…

To get SSI, you must live in the U.S and be a U.S. citizen or national. In some cases, noncitizen residents can qualify for SSI.

You may receive SSI if you live in certain types of institutions, a publicly operated community residence that serves no more than 16 people, a public institution mainly to attend approved educational or job training to help you get a job, a public emergency shelter for the homeless, or a public or private institution and Medicaid is paying more than half the cost of your care. You usually cannot get SSI if you live in a city or county rest home, halfway house, or other public institution (but there are some exceptions).

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