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Thursday April 18, 2019

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

How SSI Can Help Low-Income Seniors and the Disabled

What can you tell me about the Supplemental Security Income program and what are the eligibility requirements? My father has a very low income, so I am wondering if this is something he may qualify for.

Supplemental Security Income (or SSI) is a program administered by the Social Security Administration that provides monthly cash benefits, based on financial need, to people who are disabled or over age 65. Currently, more than 8 million people are receiving SSI benefits. Here are some things you should know.

Eligibility Requirements


To qualify for SSI, your dad must be age 65 or older, blind or disabled and have limited assets and income. He must also be a U.S. citizen or lawful resident.

His assets must be less than $2,000. (The asset limit is $3,000 for couples.) This includes cash, bank accounts, other personal property and anything else that could potentially be converted to cash. His home, household goods and one vehicle, along with life insurance policies and burial funds valued under $1,500, do not count towards countable assets.

The income limit to qualify for SSI, however, is much more complicated. Countable income includes wages or any other kind of money your dad earned from working, plus money he gets from other sources like unemployment, Social Security retirement, gifts from friends and free food or shelter.

In 2019, the SSI allowable income limit is $771 a month for an individual or $1,157 a month for a couple. If your dad's countable income is over the SSI allowable limit (which is based on a complex set of rules and calculations — see SSA.gov/ssi/text-income-ussi.htm) he will not qualify. But if he is under the limit, he could qualify for some benefits depending on his countable income.

To help you determine if your dad is eligible for SSI, help him take the Social Security Administration's benefits screening test at SSAbest.benefits.gov. This online questionnaire takes approximately five minutes to complete and screens for a variety of benefits, including SSI.

Most states, with the exception of Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota and West Virginia, supplement the federal SSI payment with payments of their own. In some of the states that pay a supplement, your dad may qualify for the state payment even if he does not meet the federal SSI eligibility criteria.

How to Apply


If you think that your dad is eligible for SSI, call 800-772-1213 and set up an appointment to apply at his local Social Security office.

To help make the application process go quickly and smoothly, your dad should bring his Social Security number; birth certificate or other proof of age; information about the home where he lives, such as his mortgage or lease and the landlord's name; payroll slips, bank statements, insurance policies, burial fund records and other information about his income and the property he owns; his proof of U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizen status; and, if he is applying for SSI because he is disabled or blind, the names, addresses and telephone numbers of doctors, hospitals and clinics that have information related to his condition.

For more information, visit SSA.gov/ssi or call Social Security at 800-772-1213 and ask them to mail you a copy of publication 11000 "Supplemental Security Income (SSI)." You can also read it online at SSA.gov/pubs/EN-05-11000.pdf.

Other Assistance Programs


Depending on your dad's income, needs and location there are other financial assistance programs that may be able to help him, including Medicaid, prescription drug assistance, food stamps and energy assistance. To find out what other services he may be eligible for visit BenefitsCheckUp.org. This is a free, confidential web tool that contains more than 2,500 programs.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published April 19, 2019
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