Understanding SSI Benefits

Tamsen Butler
SSA application

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program through Social Security which augments the money a person receives in certain situations. Not everyone who receives monthly Social Security benefits qualifies for this program.

SSI Benefits

SSI benefits are designed to assist Social Security beneficiaries with additional monthly income. The government recognizes that living on Social Security benefits alone is extremely difficult for many people, especially those people who do not have any sort of substantial assets to pull from. The amount of money a person receives from this program depends upon which state he or she lives in; different states run different programs and some pay more than others. Benefits are also dependent upon a person's current residency status and living situation.

Eligibility

Not everyone is eligible to receive SSI benefits. These benefits are not automatically available to every Social Security recipient. People who receive SSI benefits are:

  • Over the age of 65
  • Blind
  • Disabled
  • Any combination of all three bulleted items mentioned above

There are also certain income requirements in order to qualify for benefits. Since SSI is designed to assist people who truly have a financial need, a person who is over 65 but who has enough income to sustain a comfortable living will not receive SSI benefits.

As a general rule, any applicant who has a net worth of over $2000 will not be eligible for this program. The amount of a person's net worth does not include all assets, and things such as primary residences and savings designated to pay for the applicant's eventual funeral are usually not taken into consideration when figuring out net worth.

Supplemental Security Income Statistics

According to experts, elderly women are more likely to collect SSI than elderly men. The explanation for this phenomenon is simple: women, in general, live longer than men. Also, many women who lived their lives as homemakers are not entitled to their husbands' pensions upon their husbands' deaths. Consequently, there are more women living below the poverty line and needing additional financial assistance. Without SSI benefits, these women would be forced to try to live solely off their Social Security income. Without additional income, this sort of existence has the potential to be bleak.

Applying for SSI Benefits

Applying for SSI benefits is easy. Applicants can call the Social Security Administration and schedule an appointment with an SSI representative who will assist in the application process. People who visit a local Social Security office for an application appointment are encouraged to bring certain documentation with them in order to quicken the process. The interviewer will ask for proof of identity and age, along with extensive financial information. The burden of proof for financial need rests in the hands of the applicant, so the more information he or she can bring along to prove need, the better.

The Social Security Administration greatly prefers to send monthly benefits via direct deposit as opposed to sending paper checks through the mail. Many benefit recipients find direct deposit a preferable method as well since the money is placed directly into their bank account.

If an applicant has his or her application for benefits denied there is an appeals process available. Applicants can either go through the process themselves or instead hire an attorney to handle the appeal.

Exceptions to the Rules

As with any other governmental program, there are always exceptions to the rules. The program is designed to be flexible, so SSI benefit counselors are well-versed in helping applicants who may not otherwise be eligible. For example, blind and disabled people who are still able to work might be qualified to receive benefits.

Other Benefits

SSI benefit recipients are usually also eligible to enroll in other assistance programs and receive aid with things such as:

  • Medical Care (Medicaid)
  • Food Stamps
  • Other governmental assistance programs

The Supplemental Security Income program is designed to help people who are in financial need. For many benefit recipients, the money they receive from SSI makes a huge difference in their quality of life.

Understanding SSI Benefits