Social Security SSI Benefits

by Linda Richard ; Updated July 27, 2017
Supplemental Security Income helps disabled, blind and elderly people.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is an assistance program to help three specific groups--the aged, the disabled and the blind. Social Security tax does not fund this program, but the money comes from the general taxes from the American public. SSI is a social program to meet the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter of those who qualify and about 6.6 million people receive benefits, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.


In addition to age, blindness or disability, there are eligibility requirements for SSI. The person must qualify by limited income and resources. Income includes money earned from work, any money from sources like Social Security and veteran’s benefits, free food and shelter and money from relatives. Qualification by limited resources limits an individual or child to $2,000 and a couple to $3,000 in what the program considers “resources,” also known as assets. This is cash, personal property other than an applicant's car, stocks, real estate other than an applicant's home and the property it sits on, or other items that could be converted to cash for subsistence. There are also residency requirements and rules relating to prisoners or felons. Non-citizens can get SSI under certain circumstances.


Aged for purposes of SSI includes persons over the age of 65.

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An adult who is “disabled” for SSI must have a medically-determinable physical or mental condition that renders the person unable to do any substantial gainful activity. This is a condition expected to result in death or a condition that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous 12 months.

A disabled minor is a person under the age of 18 with a medically-determinable physical or mental condition that results in “marked and severe functional limitations.” This must be a condition that is expected to result in death or that has lasted for a continuous 12 months.


Blindness uses the statutory blindness definition for Social Security disability, which is vision of 20/200 in the better eye with corrective lenses or visual field limitation in the better eye with an angle no greater than 20 degrees. If a person does not meet the definition of statutory blindness, he may still be entitled to SSI under the disability provisions.


Monthly SSI benefits for 2010 are at a maximum of $674 for one eligible participant and $1,011 for a couple. This figure changes with the COLA or Cost of Living Adjustment. Monthly countable income determined by the administrators of the program may reduce this amount. States may also supplement this amount, so the amount may be more than the maximum.

About the Author

Linda Richard has been a legal writer and antiques appraiser for more than 25 years, and has been writing online for more than 12 years. Richard holds a bachelor's degree in English and business administration. She has operated a small business for more than 20 years. She and her husband enjoy remodeling old houses and are currently working on a 1970s home.

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