What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
benefits are for those who are found disabled under Social Security rules and are poor enough to qualify.  You need not have worked in the past to qualify for SSI.

Who Qualifies?
To qualify for Supplemental Security Income you must be:
(1) poor enough, and
(2) unable to work.

How Poor Must You Be?
To qualify for SSI, you cannot have more than $2,000 in what Social Security calls "resources."  If you have an eligible spouse, this joint figure goes up to $3,000.  This figure has not been changed since 1989.

Certain items are not counted as "resources."  These include:
• your home;
• certain household goods and personal effects;
• one automobile if it is needed for transportation (otherwise only $4,500 in value is excluded); and
• some other types of property.

Any income you or your family has may also reduce the benefits you can get, or if high enough, can make you ineligible.  But Social Security doesn't count all income.  It doesn't count:
• the first $20 of most income you get each month;
• the first $65 you get each month from working, and half of what you earn above that;
• food stamps;
• most utility assistance;
• most food, shelter, or clothing you get from private nonprofit groups; and 
• if you work, wages you use to pay for things you need to work because of your disability.

Some other kinds of income may not be counted depending on the circumstances.

How does Social Security decide whether your condition keeps you from working?

There are five steps in the process:

     Step 1: Are you working now?

Obviously, if you’re working now, it will be hard to prove you can’t work.  If you’re working now, Social Security will look mostly at how much you’re earning.  If you’re earning less than $1,010/month, Social Security probably won’t hold it against you.  If you’re earning more than $1,010/month, they probably will.  This figure can increase every year, so keep in mind that it was less in previous years.

     Step 2: Do you have a severe medical problem?

A non-severe medical problem won’t qualify you for disability even if you aren’t working.

     Step 3: Is your problem severe enough to qualify you automatically?

Social Security agrees that certain problems are so severe that if you have them, you qualify.  Example: if you are missing both hands.  If you have one of these problems, you win without proceeding to Step 4.

     Step 4: Can you do the work you used to do?

Social Security looks at the work you’ve done in the last 15 years and decides if you can still work one of these jobs.  If Social Security decides that you can, you do not qualify for disability.

     Step 5: Can you do any kind of job?

Even if you can’t do what you used to do, if there is any job in your area that you can do, you won’t qualify for disability.  But if there are no jobs you can do, then you will qualify for disability.