(By Saad Imran)
In 1972, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program was created to aid people who are aged, blind or disabled, have little means of income, and can’t support themselves. SSI is dispersed through cash handouts to people who fulfill its criteria. It may also include food stamps and medical benefits through Medicaid.
This program is different from Social Security Benefits and is funded by the US Treasury’s general funds and administered by the Social Security Administration. While Social Security Benefits recipients get medical coverage through Medicare, SSI recipients get it through Medicaid.
In 2021, the standard payment for SSI is $794 a month for individuals and $1,191 for a couple.
All of the States except Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota, West Virginia, and the Northern Mariana Island increase the federal SSI by an additional payment.
SSI has been pretty effective in reducing the poverty rate of individuals and their family members. A 2010 study found that after receiving SSI payments, the poverty rate of families was 43%. This would have been as high as 65% without SSI payment.
Eligibility Criteria for Supplemental Security Income
To find out if you are eligible for SSI, you can use BEST, a U.S. government tool where you can fill in a questionnaire to see if you qualify. The eligibility criteria for SSI are quite strict. To qualify, you must be either:
- You are 65 years or older: One of the SSI program’s main requirements is to be at least sixty-five years of age. If you are younger than 65, you may be eligible to receive SSI payments and Medicare coverage if the Social Security Administration deems that you have a disability.
- You are blind: Besides meeting the age requirements, you may also qualify for SSI payment if you are partially or fully blind, according to the definition of Social Security Administration.
According to their definition, you are considered blind if:
- With the use of a corrective lens, you have a general visual acuity for a distance equal to or less than 20/200 with your better eye.
- The widest diameter of the visual field in your better eye subtends to an angle of no more than 20 degrees.
If you are not considered blind according to this definition but still have some visual impairment, you may still be eligible due to having a disability.
- You have a disability: An adult is considered to have a disability if he or she has a medically determinable mental or physical impairment that prevents him or her from doing any gainful activity continuously for a year and if the mental or physical impairment can lead to death.
According to the SSA, a child is considered disabled if he or she has a medically determinable mental or physical impairment that is marked, severe, and prevents him/her from functioning normally continuously for a year and It is expected to lead to death.
- You are a Resident of the United States: To qualify for SSI payments, you must be a U.S. citizen or lawful resident. Also, you must reside in one of the 50 states, the Northern Mariana Islands, or the District of Columbia. You may also be eligible to receive SSI payments if you are a non-citizen who is a qualified alien according to the seven categories of the Department of Homeland Security and meets the SSA requirements for qualified aliens.
- You have limited income and resources: To be eligible for SSI, your total income and assets must be under the limits set by the SSA, and your monthly income cannot exceed the total amount of SSI payment. For an individual, the total value of countable assets should not exceed $2000, while for a couple, it should not exceed $3000. Some examples of countable assets are:
- Savings Bonds and Stocks
- Bank Accounts
- Gems and Collectibles
- Land that you don’t live on
- Anything that can be sold for cash
If you are not certain if you qualify for SSI payments, filling out the BEST questionnaire will help you to decide. If you have recently lost your job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then applying for SSI may be the best option for you. You can start by downloading this application form.