SSI

SSI is a federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes). It is designed to help people who are aged, blind, and disabled who have little or no income. It provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.



SSI benefits are not based on an individual’s prior work or a family member’s prior work. To get SSI, a person must have limited income and resources. In California, SSI recipients also can get MediCal (medical assistance) to pay for hospital stays, doctor bills, prescription drugs, and other health costs.

To get SSI, a person must be at least 65 years old, or be blind or disabled. An adult must be unable to work due to a physical or mental impairment which has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death. A child under age 18 is eligible if he or she has a physical or mental condition or conditions that can be medically proven and result in marked and severe functional limitations, and the condition(s) must have lasted or be expected to last at least 12 months or end in death. If age 18-22 and a student, the adult disability definition applies.
Because SSI is an income support program, monthly eligibility is based on the financial need of an eligible individual. Congress established a threshold amount that it says is the amount of federal support people need for food, clothing and shelter. Called the federal benefit rate (FBR), this amount is adjusted every year for cost-of-living changes. In 2016, the FBR is $733. In some states, the federal payment is supplemented to make up for regional living costs.
Income considered in determining SSI eligibility includes earnings from employment, pension, alimony, interest, and food, clothing and shelter given on a regular basis. Any amount of money that is given as a gift or inheritance is counted as income. These are some of the reasons to consider a special needs trust for individuals with developmental disabilities. Resources are assets that the individual owns such as cash/bank accounts, life insurance, land and personal property.
To qualify for SSI, an individual is allowed to have assets of no more than $2,000. Owning a home is allowed if the person lives in it, as is a car if it is needed for work or medical treatment and for other specified reasons. The face value of a life insurance policy cannot exceed $1,500. Certain types of resources do not count, such as food stamps, energy assistance and federally subsidized housing.