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What is SSI and am I eligible for it?

May 28, 2012, 6 a.m.

SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income and is a monetary stipend that's paid monthly to low income citizens who qualify as one of the following: 65 or older, disabled, or blind. SSI eligibility is also determined based on several other factors that we'll discuss here.

SSI Eligibility Based on Income

The amount of income that you earn per month, as well as the resources you have, can also determine your SSI eligibility. Income is identified by the Social Security Administration as the following.

  1. Wages from a job.
  2. Retirement pensions.
  3. Social Security benefits paid out to you.

When determining your eligibility for Supplemental Security Income, the Social Security Administration doesn't take into consideration every penny of your income. For example, if you're signed up for an energy assistance program, this isn't counted. Neither is any shelter that you receive from nonprofit agencies. Food stamps (now known as SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) also aren't counted as any income that may exclude you from qualifying for SSI. If you're married and your spouse earns an income from a job or Social Security, this is also factored into how much SSI you can receive.

SSI Eligibility Based on Your Resources

The things that you own are considered your resources, and may also have an impact in determining your SSI eligibility. They include the following.

  1. Real estate that you own.
  2. The amount of cash you have on hand.
  3. Your bank account balances.
  4. Any stocks and bonds that you own.

If you're concerned that you own too many resources and may not quality for SSI, remember this: the Social Security Administration doesn't count resources such as the home you live in or the land that it occupies, life insurance policies under $1500, burial plots you own or burial funds under $1500, or in most cases the vehicle you drive. If the sum total of the resources you own (minus those just mentioned) add up to less than $2000, you may be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income.

Other Rules that Govern SSI Eligibility

Your residence within the United States is critical to qualifying for SSI. Although there are some instances where a noncitizen can qualify for SSI, the vast majority of recipients are required to be U.S. citizens or nationals. Also, if you're a citizen but you reside in the Northern Mariana Islands, you may qualify for the SSI residency requirements.

Did You Know?

Depending on where you live, you may be eligible to receive additional money to your basic SSI allowance. SSI is a standard amount nationwide, but laws in certain states have provisions in place that sometimes add additional funds to your payout. To find out if you live in a state where you can qualify for extra money, contact the Social Security Administration.

For More Information

Since your circumstances may change your eligibility for SSI, you should contact the Social Security Administration if you have any questions. You can contact Social Security by mail, phone, or in person at an office near you.

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