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SSI Benefits top 5 things you need to know

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is offered to the aged (65 years of age or older), blind, or disabled. Supplemental Security Income rules and requirements, however, can be a bit tough to understand. Not everyone will qualify. Before applying for SSI it’s important to review the top 5 things you need to know.

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Top requirements of SSI benefits:



  1. Applicants must have limited income and resources.


Many applicants apply for SSI benefits without understanding that this is a wage assistance program to support only those who have a dire need for support. Specifically, you will only qualify for SSI benefits if you have limited income and resources.

Income refers to money you earn or money you receive from other sources (i.e. Social Security benefits, workers compensation, unemployment benefits, and friends and family). The SSA will also review any additional support you receive such as payments or supplies for food and shelter (referred to as in-kind support).

Not only must income be limited, however, the SSA will also review other resources you own such as cash, land, stocks, land, vehicles, personal property, life insurance, bank account balances, savings bonds, and anything else which can be converted to cash.

If you make too much income, receive too much support, or own too many resources, you will not qualify for SSI benefits.

  1. You must be a citizen, national or qualified alien to receive benefits.


In general, to qualify for SSI benefits you must be a citizen, a national, or a qualified alien. Given the complexity of the legislation regarding the qualifications as a non-citizen alien, if you have questions about whether you will qualify under this status it’s important to contact the SSA and speak directly with someone who understands the requirements.

  1. You do not have to earn work credits to qualify for SSI benefits.


The Social Security Administration administers two wage assistance programs: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). If you are trying to qualify for SSI benefits as a disabled applicant the criteria for the disability determination will be the same for SSI as it is for SSDI. Specifically, you must have a condition which is severe, which is expected to last for 12 continuous months, and which does not allow you to work and perform substantial gainful activity.

The difference in the two programs, however, is that unlike SSDI applicants, SSI applicants do not have to earn or accumulate work credits to qualify. In fact, there are SSI recipients who are currently receiving SSI benefits who have never been able to work.

  1. You cannot get SSI while living a public institution.


In general, if you are living in an institution which is run by the local, state or federal government and your stay lasts for a month or longer you will not qualify for SSI benefits (there are exceptions for certain homeless or public emergency shelters).

If you are receiving SSI benefits and are concerned about whether they will be suspended if you enter a public facility, contact the SSA.

  1. All ages can receive SSI benefits.


All ages from newborns to the aged can receive SSI benefits if they meet the SSI requirements. Minors receiving SSI when they reach adulthood, however, will have their SSI benefits re-evaluated using adult disability criteria.

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