The Social Security Administration is the federal organization that is responsible for administering government retirement funds for American workers. Every worker who pays Social Security tax for a specific number of years is entitled to these benefits. However, the Social Security Administration also provides a type of disability benefit that's not based on Social Security tax payments. This program is known as Supplemental Security Income.
SSI and Seniors
Low-income senior citizens aged 65 or older are eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, regardless of their health conditions. If you're age 65 or older and your income is lower than $1,000 per month, you can receive SSI benefits even if you've never paid Social Security tax. These benefits are personal, although the amount of benefits you can receive may increase, depending on marital status.
Aspects of SSI
You aren't required to pay Social Security tax to receive SSI benefits because this program is funded by general tax revenue, instead of Social Security taxes. SSI benefits are paid to eligible recipients on a monthly basis -- usually the first of every month. You receive these benefits in the form of a check that you can cash and use for any needs you have, such as buying food and clothes and paying for your housing. Although SSI benefits don't increase when you reach 65, your state may add benefits to it. You can find a list of states that add benefits to SSI payments on the Social Security website. (See Resources.)
To be eligible to receive SSI benefits as a senior citizen, you must show the Social Security office that your income qualifies you for the program. If you're already receiving retirement benefits, these don't directly disqualify you from receiving SSI benefits, but your retirement payments do count as part of your monthly income. The Social Security Administration also considers other benefits you receive, such as veteran benefits, as part of your income. Your resources cannot exceed $2,000 in value if you're single, or $3,000 if you're married. Resources are the things you own, such as bank accounts, real estate, bonds and stocks.
SSI and Work
If you're age 65 or older and you continue to work, you're still eligible to receive SSI benefits. The only requirement is that your monthly income must not exceed the allowable limits. The maximum federal amount of SSI benefits you can receive is $674 if you're single, or $1,011 if you're married. Depending on your income, these amounts can decrease. If you start earning more, your benefit payments decrease until you reach the income limit, at which point your benefits stop. You can apply for these benefits through the Social Security website.