Social Security - Supplemental Security Income

The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers a program designed to help the aged, the blind, and the disabled maintain a minimum standard of living. That program is called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Because SSI determinations often take considerable time, provisional aid and emergency funding are available under certain circumstances. The monthly SSI payment is the same amount regardless of the applicant's circumstance or state of residence.

How Is Eligibility Determined?


Three categories of individuals are eligible for SSI payments: the aged, which are those over 65; the blind, which includes those with very poor eyesight; and the long-term disabled, which are those with a mental or physical problem that is expected either to result in death or to last more than one year. Neither alcohol nor drug dependence qualify as disabilities for the purpose of SSI. Blind or disabled children are eligible. Potential recipients must apply within 30 days after the federal government notifies them that they are eligible.


Potential recipients must either be U.S. citizens or must live in the Northern Mariana Islands and be U.S. citizens or nationals. Qualified aliens are also eligible for SSI payments.


The federal government has established a minimum standard of living in the U.S. To be eligible for SSI, an applicant's income must fall below that national standard.

Certain types of income are excluded for the purpose of calculating an applicant's monthly income. Whether or not trusts are included, for instance, depends upon when they were created. For trusts created before the year 2000, more lenient standards are used; for those created during or after 2000, both the income and principal of certain trusts are included.

With some exceptions, if SSI recipients transfer assets for less than their fair market value and for the purpose of establishing need for benefits, transfer penalties are imposed. When applicants request SSI, they must produce three years' worth of financial records for the SSA to review; transfers made during that period are subject to the penalty. The penalty periods range from the loss of one month of benefits to the loss of 36 months of benefits.

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