How to Qualify for SSI
SSI provides monthly financial assistance to individuals who have: 1) a disability, or are age 65 or older, 2) low income, and 3) low resources.
The SSA has a very strict definition of disability. You must:
- Have a disability that has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least one year or to result in death;
- Be unable to do work that you did before because of your medical condition; and
- Be unable to adjust to other work because of your medical condition.
SSA uses this process to see if you qualify for disability benefits:
- Are you working, and your earnings average more than $1,470 a month (in 2023)? If yes, you will not be deemed disabled for SSDI. If no, proceed to step 2.
- Is your medical condition “severe?” If yes, proceed to step 3. If no, you will not be deemed disabled.
- Is your medical condition found in the list of disabling conditions/impairments? If yes, then you are deemed disabled. If no, then the SSA will look at the severity of the conditions. If the SSA deems the condition severe enough, you are deemed disabled. If the SSA does not deem the condition severe enough, proceed to step 4.
- Can you do the work you did previously? If yes, you will not be deemed disabled. If no, proceed to step 5.
- Can you do any other type of work? If yes, you will not be deemed disabled. If no, you will be deemed disabled.
In general, the more countable income you have, the less your SSI benefit will be. If your countable income is over the limit, you will not receive SSI benefits. Income is anything you receive, cash or in-kind, that can be used to meet needs for food and shelter. This includes:
- Earned income: wages
- Unearned income: money you receive from other sources, including Social Security, workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, state disability payments, cash from friends or relatives
- In-kind support and maintenance: food and/or shelter that someone else pays for
- SSA does not count the following as income for SSI:
- The first $20 of most income received in a month
- The first $65 of earnings, and then one-half of earnings over $65 in a month
- Income tax refunds; scholarships; and loans
- Value of food stamps or energy assistance
- Expenses paid directly by someone else, for things other than food/shelter (phone bill, medical bill, etc.)
- Food/shelter provided by nonprofit agency or HUB subsidy
In addition to your income, SSA also looks at the value of your resources (e.g., your assets). The countable resource limit is $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple. If your resources exceed the limit at the beginning of a month, you are not eligible for SSI benefits that month. Examples of non-countable resources:
- The home that you live in and the land it is on
- Household goods and personal property
- Burial plot; and burial funds/life insurance up to $1,500
- One vehicle, regardless of value, if you or a member of your household use it for transportation
- Income tax refunds, which are excluded from resources for 12 months after receipt
- SSA back payments and retroactive payments, which are excluded from resources for 9 months
- Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which are excluded from resources for 9 months
If you transfer your resources to another person for less than fair market value, you could be ineligible for SSI benefits for up to 36 months.