Supplemental Security Income requires that recipients are blind, disabled or over age 65 to qualify. You must also have proof of low income and few resources. If you meet the qualifications, you are eligible for the federal SSI benefit and the state supplement, if your state provides additional funds. The federal SSI benefit changes with the cost of living adjustments for Social Security and other federal benefits.
Federal SSI Benefit
The federal SSI benefit in 2011 is $674. For the five states that do not offer supplemental benefits, that is the maximum monthly SSI benefit available. States that do not provide a supplement are Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia. The federal SSI benefit is subject to monthly reporting of income, living arrangements and resource changes, with SSI benefits offset by earned and unearned income. Reporting for the current month applies to checks two months forward.
Some states provide supplements administered jointly by the state and the Social Security Administration. Other states administer supplements separately from the federal SSI program. California provides a higher supplement than most states, with $845 total benefit available to elderly or disabled and $908 available to a blind recipient in 2011. Massachusetts total payments in 2010 show $802 for elderly, $823 for blind and $788 for disabled individuals. Social Security provides a table of state supplements on its website.
The Social Security Administration may reduce your federal SSI benefit based on your living arrangements. If you do not pay a fair share of rent and utilities, Social Security may reduce your monthly payment. One-third plus $20 is the greatest reduction available for living arrangements, for a total of $244 reduction in 2011. Earned income has a $65 exemption each month and counts at 50 percent. If you earn $200, subtract $65 for the exempt amount and divide the $135 remaining by 2 for $67.50 reduction in your benefits. Unearned income like Social Security has a $20 exemption each month. Unearned income counts at 10 percent. If you receive $200 from veterans’ benefits or similar source, subtract $20 and then subtract the $180 from your SSI monthly payment.
If you qualify for SSI, you may also qualify for other assistance. In all states except California, nutrition assistance or food stamps are available to SSI recipients. Medicaid is another program available to SSI qualifiers. You can qualify for Social Security benefits and SSI together, with Social Security offsetting your SSI benefits. This gives some recipients the availability of Medicare and the Extra Help program that assists with Medicare payments.
- Social Security Administration: Understanding Supplemental Security Income -- Benefits 2011 Edition
- Social Security Administration; A Guide to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Groups and Organizations; January 2011
- Social Security Administration; Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in California; January 2011
- Social Security Administration: Massachusetts State Supplementation 2010
- Social Security Administration; State Assistance Programs for SSI Recipients; January 2010