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Who Can Qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits?

A separate program, called the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, pays federal welfare benefits to “disabled” children who reside in households deemed to fall within SSI’s welfare guideline and to those “disabled” adults who may not have paid sufficiently into the SSDI program to collect benefits that would cause them to meet the SSI’s welfare income guidelines (and who otherwise qualify under Social Security’s welfare guidelines referenced below). Likewise, the benefits are available to those who are in poverty and who have reached the age of 65. The program is meant to “supplement” the income of those who are in need, and the benefit amount takes into one’s resources (both income and assets) as well as living circumstances in determining the amount of benefit money one is entitled to receive.

The maximum monthly SSI federal benefit amount for an eligible individual in 2021 is $794.00 and $1191.00 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse. Certain states do provide a state supplement to this amount, with the amount differing depending on whether it’s for an individual or a couple, and likewise taking into account other household living circumstances.

A disability claimant may be deemed eligible to receive both an SSI check as well as a check under the Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) program in the event the amount of the SSDI is not deemed to bring the individual’s income or, if appropriate, the family income above the welfare guidelines. One’s monthly check will be reduced dollar for dollar for income resources such as income one might receive in a given month for not only SSDI benefits, but also earned income from let’s say a part-time job, income brought in by one’s spouse, one-time payments received. These are just a few examples of the types of income that will affect one’s SSI check for a given month.

Likewise, the Social Security regulations provide an asset limitation which would, if reached, preclude any entitlement to SSI benefits. The asset limitation has remained at $2000 for an individual and $3000.00 for a couple (and has remained at this level for more than twenty-five (25) years). Examples of assets include property, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, life insurance policies with a cash value and retirement funds. There are likewise certain exclusions allowed for under the regulations: the house you live in, a life insurance policy you own with a face value of $1,500 or less per person, burial plots or spaces for you and your immediate family, a burial fund for up to $1,500 for you and your spouse, household goods and personal effects, property you or your spouse use in a trade or business, or at your job if working for someone other than yourself, and if you are disabled or blind to the extent you have sset aside money under the PASS program.

Likewise, individuals may avoid a reduction in their SSI monthly benefit by setting up what is called a special needs trust that meets the requirements of the Social Security regulations. This type of trust is many times arranged in circumstances where an individual may be coming into a large amount of money (for example, in the case of a personal injury or workers’ compensation settlement, or an inheritance) and the individual does not have the need or ability to spend the money on items that would otherwise be exemptions to assets under the Social Security regulations.