Seniors receive special protections in the United States, and qualify for Supplemental Security Income, along with disabled and blind people of any age. The regulations do not base Supplemental Security Income on work history like Social Security benefits. SSI benefits arise from a combination of need with age, disability or blindness. Seniors with low resources and limited income who have no work history may qualify for SSI.
Difference in Social Security and SSI
Social Security depends on the recipient's work history and funds come from payment of Federal Insurance Contributions Act taxes for a period of 10 years. SSI comes from the general tax revenues and provides need-based assistance to people who have no other means of support. Confusion arises because the Social Security Administration handles SSI as well as Social Security. These programs are entirely separate, with different requirements.
Resources for SSI must be below $2,000, but this does not include a home and property, household goods, a car, and burial and life insurance under $1,500. The $2,000 limit includes extra real estate, vehicles, motorcycles, boats, bank accounts and stocks and bonds. If your resources exceed this amount, you cannot give away items to qualify for SSI. You may sell them for a reasonable price with SSI approval.
A person receiving SSI benefits cannot make more than about $1,400 a month in earned income. SSI counts unearned income, as well, so if you have interest income or receive some Social Security benefits, Social Security reduces your SSI benefits by that amount. If your earned income is below $65, you can receive the full SSI payment each month. If your earned income is more than $65, divide the excess amount you earned in half and subtract from your total benefit. Any change in your SSI benefit occurs two months after you report the change.
SSI payments require reporting of changes in income and household situation. Income of a spouse or household member who is not on SSI can count as income for the SSI recipient and reduce the SSI payment. You must report changes that may affect your SSI within 10 days after the end of the month in which the change occurred. If you do not report changes, you may receive sanctions or loss of payments for six months. You must not be out of the country for more than 30 days at a time or you lose benefits for the time you are gone.
If you qualify for SSI benefits, the federal monthly payment in 2011 is $674. Some states supplement this amount, while others permit SSI recipients to receive food stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program allowance. Medicaid assistance also may be available for seniors.
- Social Security Online: Supplemental Security Income; June 2007
- Social Security Online: Understanding Supplemental Security Income: Reporting Responsibilities; 2010
- Social Security Online: Understanding Supplemental Security Income: SSI Overview; 2010
- Social Security Online: A Guide To Supplemental Security Income (SSI) For Groups and Organizations; January 2010
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