Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Seniors

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are provided by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and seek to offer qualifying children, adults and older adults financial support.

Supplemental Security Income is offered as additional support to beneficiaries of Social Security benefits and other financial benefits. In fact, the SSI application is also used for Social Security benefits and, in some states, food assistance.

The following sections explain what Supplemental Security Income is and how applicants may apply for SSI based on their ages and disabilities. Because seniors are a population commonly affected by disabilities and financial difficulties post-retirement, they should be familiar with all the possible benefits that for which they may be eligible. To maintain a sustainable lifestyle, seniors may require some government assistance from the SSA or other institutions. Seniors can review the information provided below to determine if SSI benefits are right for them.

What is SSI?

SSI is a form of monthly benefit funded by the U.S. Treasury meant to help disabled seniors achieve financial stability. Unlike Social Security, SSI benefits do not depend on applicants’ work history. Instead, eligibility is based solely on age and financial and medical need. Due to the purpose of SSI, beneficiaries are encouraged to return to work without the fear of losing benefits.

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SSI benefits are distributed on the first of each month and allow beneficiaries to purchase food and other basic necessities. Approved expenses include housing, clothing and utility bills. However, other costs may be funded by SSI benefits if a representative payee is not managing the money. Still, beneficiaries may need to receive confirmation that purchases are appropriate from the SSA office. SSI recipients may also be eligible for food assistance in all states except CA. They may get medical assistance (i.e., Medicaid) to help fund hospital visits, prescriptions and other medical costs as well, depending on their state of residence. SSI users may also be eligible for programs such as the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP).

Who is eligible for SSI?

To receive Supplemental Security Income, applicants must provide documents and information that verifies their age, disability and income. According to the SSA, applicants for SSI benefits are considered eligible if they meet the criteria listed below:

  • They are 65 years of age or older.
  • They are blind or disabled.
  • They have limited income and resources that meet SSI income and resource limits for the family size.
  • They are U.S. citizens. or are qualified aliens.
  • They are a resident of the U.S. and have not been absent for more than 30 consecutive days.
  • They are not confined in a government institution.
  • They have applied, or will apply, for other cash benefits or payments for which they are eligible.
  • They consent to give the SSA permission to request their financial records.
  • They complete and submit a timely application.

Other eligibility requirements may apply to some applicants depending on their disability, type of income and criminal record. For instance, applicants cannot receive SSI benefits if they have any unsatisfied felonies or arrest warrants for evading prosecution or escaping from custody. Children may also be eligible for benefits depending on their disabilities and gross household income. In general, the SSI income limits match the federal benefit rate (FBR). The FBR changes annually, but the 2019 FBR is $771 per month for individuals and $1,157 for a couple, which has increased from 2.8 percent from the previous year. Each additional person deemed essential may receive no more than $386 each month in income. Resource limits for SSI require applicants to own countable items totaling $2,000 or less for individuals or $3,000 for married couples.

Note: Knowingly selling or giving away resources to meet the SSI resource limit may make applicants ineligible for benefits for up to 36 months.

How to Apply for SSI

The SSI application process differs depending on applicants’ ages. Adults and some seniors are able to apply for SSI online or in person if they meet the following criteria:

  • They are disabled.
  • They are between 18 and 65 years of age.
  • They have never been married.
  • They are not blind.
  • They are U.S. citizens residing in the country.
  • They have not previously applied for benefits.
  • They are applying for SSI at the same time as Social Security disability.

SSI benefit applications are not yet available online for children applicants (i.e., applicants younger than 18 years old). If senior applicants are applying for Supplemental Security Income for their children or grandchildren, they can follow these steps to apply properly:

  1. Determine if your child is eligible for SSI and will benefit from it. The child disability starter kit can help you decide whether the benefits offered by the SSA are right for your child.
  2. Contact Social Security by phone or in person as soon as possible to begin filling out the application. For children applications, you will need to complete an application for Supplemental Security Income and a child disability report that asks for information regarding your child’s condition. The report is available online, but the application is not.
  3. Ask your child’s doctor to sign the report. The doctor’s signature enables the SSA to make a decision on the child’s benefits claim.
  4. Return all documents to your local Social Security office and wait for results. Because the SSA must assess each claim individually, estimated times when you can expect to hear back from Social Security about your claim are unavailable.

Applicants 65 years of age and older may apply by calling the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 if they have hearing problems. Older applicants may also visit their local Social Security office by calling to make an appointment.

Qualified applicants of any age are encouraged to apply immediately to ensure they maintain their benefits. Appointments made by phone to apply for SSI may be considered the application filing date if applicants submit applications within 60 days of the call.

Note: Anyone may make appoints for applicants or assist with their application for SSI benefits by completing their forms, accompanying them to the Social Security office, interpreting for them and taking them to required medical appointments or tests.

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