Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

The federal government's Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program assists very low income persons who are age 65 or older or who are blind or disabled children or adults.

While run by the Social Security Administration, the program receives funding from federal general revenue funds, not Social Security taxes. Some states supplement the basic federal benefits. SSI amounts for 1999 are $500/month for an individual, $751/month for a couple and $250/month for an essential person.

Aside from age and disability, eligibility hinges on a person's level of income and personal assets. The government considers income as earnings, pensions, government checks, and non-cash goods like food, shelter, and clothing, if provided by someone else.

To be SSI eligible, this total income cannot exceed the basic SSI monthly benefit. The program, however, does exclude some items from the income total. These items are the first $20 of monthly unearned income, the first $65 of monthly wages, and one half of any additional earned income. If an SSI-eligible person's monthly earnings exceed $65, his or her SSI benefits are reduced by one dollar for every two dollars over the amount.

Personal assets or resources include cash, vehicles, stocks, bonds, and real and personal property. Excluded items are your home, most household goods, a cemetery plot, certain amounts of burial and life insurance, and often your car. For SSI eligibility, resources cannot exceed $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple.

Persons who meet SSI eligibility requirements may also qualify for other government benefits programs, such as food stamps and Medicaid.

If a person's application for Supplemental Security Income is denied, or the individual's benefits are terminated, he or she has the right to appeal the decision. However, the appeal must be filed within 60 days. There are three levels of administrative appeals of denial of benefits and a further appeal to federal court.

For general information on Supplemental Security Income Benefits, contact the local office of the Social Security Administration or call toll free at 1-800-772-1213.