What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
SSI is a federal program for people with low income or capital who are 65 or older, or have a disability. The program is paid by the general revenues of the U.S. and, in states which supplement SSI (California is one of these states), from state funds.
Who is eligible for SSI?
Only people who are 65 or older, blind or disabled and meet certain financial criteria can receive SSI.
What general criteria do I have to meet to receive SSI?
- You must live in the U.S. or Northern Mariana Islands.
- You must be a U.S. citizen or be in the U.S. legally.
- If you're eligible for Social Security or other benefits, you must apply for them. (You can get SSI and Social Security checks if you're eligible for both.)
- If you're disabled, you must accept vocational rehabilitation services if they're offered.
What financial criteria do I have to meet to receive SSI?
Social Security looks at your income and what you own to determine your eligibility. Income is money you receive for wages, Social Security checks, and pensions; it also includes items you receive such as food, clothing, or shelter. What you own can include real estate, personal belongings, bank accounts, cash, and stocks and bonds.
Where do I have to live to receive SSI?
Your residence plays a role in determining whether you can receive SSI. If you live in a city or county rest home, a halfway house, or other public institution, you may not be able to receive SSI. There are some exceptions:
- If you're in a public or private institution and Medicaid is paying more than half the cost of your care, you may get a small SSI check.
- If you live in a publicly operated community residence which serves no more than 16 people, you may receive SSI.
- If you live in a public institution mainly to attend approved educational or job training that will help you get a job, you may receive SSI.
- If you're living in a public emergency shelter for the homeless, you may be able to receive SSI checks.
How do I apply for SSI?
Visit your local Social Security office, or call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213. Have the following items on hand when you apply:
- your Social Security card;
- your birth certificate;
- information about the home where you live, such as your mortgage or lease and landlord's name;
- and payroll slips, bank books, insurance policies, car registration, burial fund records and other information about your income and the things you own.
These documents must be original or certified.
Can I receive SSI and still use federal health care programs (Medicare, Medicaid)?
Yes. In fact, most people who get SSI also get Medicaid and food stamps. Contact your local social services department for more information about this.
If you currently receive Medicare but have a limited income, California may pay your Medicare premiums and, in some cases, other Medicare expenses such as deductibles and coinsurance. Call your local Medicaid agency office for more information. You can get general information about this program by calling Social Security (1-800-772-1213) and asking for a copy of Medicare Savings For Qualified Beneficiaries (HCFA Publication No. 02184).
How much are SSI payments?
As the word "supplemental" implies, SSI is designed to raise your income only up to a certain point. The amount you receive depends on whether you have other sources of income and how large they are. If you have outside income, you may not receive the full SSI rate; if you do not have any sources of income, you may receive the full payment.
To find out more about current SSI rates and eligibility, call Social Security at 1-800- 772-1213. For a detailed explanation of the program, ask for a copy of "The Red Book," which is called in full, "A Summary Guide to Social Security and Supplemental Security Income Work Incentives for the Disabled and Blind."
Social Security Online has some authoritative information on SSI.
SSI/SSP in RCFE's
There is a special non-medical Board and Care rate that is higher than the regular SSI rate for individuals living independently in homes and apartments. As of January, 2009, the maximum SSI/SSP Non-Medical Board and Care benefit is $1086 for an individual and $2172 for a couple living in the same RCFE. The facility is allowed to keep $961 and the remaining $125 goes back to the individual ($1922 to facility and $250 for a couple).
Fewer and fewer facilities are willing to take the low payment rate. If a person has low personal care needs and requires primarily room and board and distribution of medication, some facilities will take a person on SSI/SSP. For individuals needing more care, the facilities may ask the families to make vounatry contributions directly to the facility to be used for personal care services.