SSI is a financial assistance program for low-income people who are disabled, aged 65 or older or blind, even if they have never worked, and no matter their age when they became disabled. The 5 step process for determining disability for adults is the same as for SSDI, as described above. There is a different process for determining disability for children, which is detailed below.
To be eligible for SSI, your income, minus any deductions, must be less than the SSI benefit amount. For examples, see below under "Working while getting SSI benefits." Income includes money that you earn from employment as well as unearned income, like investment income, pensions, or spousal maintenance. SSA also counts "in-kind" income related to food or shelter, like the value of room and board that someone gives you free of charge.
Along with an income limit, the SSI program has a limit on assets or "resources." These include cash, bank accounts, stocks, real estate, vehicles and anything else you own that has value. There are several exceptions that do not count as resources, such as the house you live in, once vehicle used for your household's transportation, and your household goods and personal effects. To qualify for SSI, the limit on resources is $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple.
As of January 2017, the maximum SSI payment is $735 per month for one person and $1,103 per month for a couple, if both spouses are eligible for SSI. Also, if Social Security decides that you are eligible for SSI, you may get back benefits from one month after you applied for SSI to the time the application is approved as long as you were disabled during that time. For this reason, it is important to apply for benefits as soon as possible.
SSI for children eligibility requirements
Low-income children under age 18 who have serious medical conditions may be eligible for children's SSI. A child is disabled for the purposes of SSI if the child has a medical condition or combination of conditions that cause "marked and severe functional limitations." The condition must have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. Medical evidence documenting your child's medical condition is required. In deciding whether your child is disabled, SSA uses the following 4 step process:
- Step 1: Is your child working and earning at least $1,170 per month? If yes, then SSA considers your child not disabled. If no, go to Step 2.
- Step 2: Does your child have a severe medical condition that causes more than minimal problems in their ability to perform basic physical or mental activities? If yes, go to Step 3.
- Step 3: Is your child's medical condition on SSA's Listing of Impairments for Children? If yes, then SSA considers your child disabled. If no, go to Step 4.
- Step 4: Does your child's medical condition functionally equal one of the conditions on the Listing of Impairments for Children? If yes, then SSA considers your child disabled. In this step, SSA evaluates your child's condition based on six domains of functioning, including acquiring and using information, attending and completing tasks, interacting and relating with others, moving about and manipulating objects, caring for yourself, and health and physical wellbeing. Your child must have an "extreme" limitation in at least one domain or a "marked" limitation in at least two domains to be considered disabled.
Updated: January 2017