The Social Security Administration administers benefit programs for retirees, low-income individuals and the disabled. Social Security, funded by FICA taxes, provides retirement income to workers and their qualifying dependents and survivors. Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, gives financial assistance to blind or disabled individuals, and those at least 65 years old with limited resources and earnings. If you qualify for both programs, you can receive monthly benefits under both.
Getting Social Security
You earn up to four Social Security credits each year you pay FICA taxes. At retirement, you usually need 40 Social Security credits acquired over a decade of work to qualify for monthly benefits. Your child can get Social Security if she's unmarried and under 18 when your benefits begin, or if she is disabled. She can continue to get Social Security payments at age 18, if she became disabled before her 22nd birthday. Once you start to draw your Social Security, your husband or wife can receive spousal benefits starting at age 62, as can an ex-spouse to whom you were married for at least 10 years. When you die, your children, spouse and ex-spouse may qualify for survivor benefits.
Unlike Social Security, SSI is need-based. Income and the value of assets that you can turn into cash determine your need. Your wages, monetary gifts and money from worker's compensation or other sources constitute income. The SSA does not recognize certain income categories, such as loans that must be repaid, and only considers a portion of others to determine your Supplemental Security Income monthly benefit. Resources considered in calculating financial need include cash and personal property such as savings bonds, stock and real estate. However, the SSA excludes your home, car and furniture. As of publication, the value of an individual's resources could not exceed $2,000, while a couple's limit was $3,000. All SSI recipients must be citizens or qualified non-citizens and reside in the United States., except disabled children living abroad with a military parent.
Disability and SSI
If your child is disabled, be aware that the Social Security Administration uses different definitions of disability for SSI evaluation. A child's disability from birth to age 18 need not be permanent, but it must be expected to last at least one year or be fatal. At age 18, disabled children must qualify for SSI under the adult definition. Adult disabilities must last at least 12 months, potentially result in death or make the individual unable to work. The SSA regards blindness as a unique disability. Children and adults are considered blind if their best eye has 20/200 vision or their field of vision is 20 degrees or less with corrective lenses.
Circumstances for Both
Although you can retire at age 62 and receive monthly Social Security benefits, you must be 65 years old to get any SSI assistance for which you qualify. Children must be unmarried and disabled to collect both Social Security and SSI. If your child received Social Security payments due to a disability acquired before age 22, he may continue to get both benefits when he turns age 18, depending on his disability evaluation. The Social Security Administration doesn't have special SSI accommodations for widows, widowers and ex-spouses collecting survivor benefits. If they are 65, live in the United States. and meet SSI resources and income thresholds, they may receive both benefits at the same time.
Trudy Brunot began writing in 1992. Her work has appeared in "Quarterly," "Pennsylvania Health & You," "Constructor" and the "Tribune-Review" newspaper. Her domestic and international experience includes human resources, advertising, marketing, product and retail management positions. She holds a master's degree in international business administration from the University of South Carolina.