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Requirements and benefits of Supplemental Security Income

There are many different kinds of benefits and resources that are available to people with particular needs. SSI benefits, also known as supplemental security income, are one example. The first step to taking advantage of benefits that may be available is to gain an understanding of what the benefit provides and whether or not you qualify.

SSI benefits consist of monthly payments made to those who apply and qualify. They are a federally-provided benefit, but some states supplement the federal amount with a state benefit, as well. In order to qualify for SSI, a person generally needs to fit within one of the following three categories: individuals aged 65 or older, those who are blind, and disabled individuals. For people who are blind or disabled, there is no age limit on who can qualify to receive benefits. Falling into one of these categories is not sufficient to establish eligibility, however. An additional requirement for the program is that the prospective recipient must have low income and few resources.

When considering income, the SSI benefits program looks at money received from a variety of sources. Income can include social security benefits, pensions, and wages. Things other than money, such as housing or food, can also constitute income. Despite looking at many different sources to determine income, the SSI benefits program does not count 100 percent of income when determining whether a person exceeds the qualifying limit, however. For example, if a person receives housing or shelter assistance from a private nonprofit organization, this is not counted toward his or her income. Similarly, SNAP benefits, home energy assistance, the first $20 per month of income received and the first $65 per month of wages and half the amount exceeding $65 are excluded from income calculations. However, a portion of a spouse's income or a child's parents' income is included.

In addition to income, the SSI program will look a person's resources. Resources valued at less than $2,000 could allow a person to qualify for SSI benefits. Examples of counted resources include bank accounts, real estate and stocks and bonds. However, a person's home, small life insurance policies, a personal car, and burial plots and funds are not counted. Although there are other eligibility requirements, assessing income, resources and whether a person has one of the three qualifying conditions is often a good place to start in determining whether he or she may qualify for SSI benefits.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Supplemental Security Income (SSI)," last accessed Aug. 25, 2014

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