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Senior Couple Discussing SSI or Supplemental Security IncomeWhen helping a senior manage his or her finances, it is important to understand the different types of benefits and programs a senior may qualify for. Determining eligibility for Social Security benefits, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), community programs and other government assistance and programs can be very confusing.

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The first step in knowing which types of assistance and programs the senior may qualify for is to gain a better understanding of the available benefits. This Supplemental Security Income overview will assist you in better understanding this this government program. It will include the following topics:

What is Supplemental Security Income?

Supplemental Security Income, also known as SSI is a form of Social Security disability benefit. SSI is a Federal income supplement program that is not funded by Social Security taxes, therefore, beneficiaries can be people who have never worked before or never paid Social Security taxes. Supplemental Security Income is funded by general tax revenues and is designed to help people who are 65 years or older, blind and disabled people who have little or no income at all. 

Supplemental Security Income is based on financial need as it provides cash for basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter.

Eligibility Requirements of Supplemental Security Income

For starters, it is important to understand the basic eligibility requirements for this benefit program. To be eligible for Supplemental Security Income, the recipient must be:

  • 65 years or older
  • Blind
  • Disabled

In addition, the beneficiary of Supplemental Security Income must:

  • Have limited resources and income
  • Be a resident of the United States
  • Be either a citizen or a national of the United States, or fall into specific non-citizen categories that are eligible
  • Not be absent from the United States for a full calendar month or more than 30 consecutive days
  • Have applied for other eligible cash benefits or payments

Beneficiaries of Supplemental Security income must also give the Social Security Administration (SSA) the permission to contact any financial institution to request necessary financial records.


Difference Between Social Security Benefits and Social Security Income

Those who meet the eligibility requirements for SSI often also meet the requirements to receive Social Security benefits and can receive both types of benefits at the same time.

Social Security benefits are based on prior income earned by the recipient or a family member of the recipient, while Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is not. Supplemental Security Income is a need-based program that can provide benefits even to people who has never worked before for as long as the person qualifies under the SSI income guidelines.

In order to get Social Security benefits the person must be at least 62 years old or at retirement age. The amount of the Social Security benefit would depend on how much Social Security taxes the person has paid over the years. On the other, to get Supplemental Security Income, the person does not need to be at retirement age, however, he or she must be disabled, blind, or at least 65 years old and have limited income and resources.

Like Social Security benefits, SSI benefits are paid out once per month, but Supplemental Security Income benefits are paid on the first of each month; whereas, Social Security payment dates vary.

Applying For Supplemental Security Income Benefits

Applying for Supplemental Security Income program is simple. It is similar for any of the Social Security benefits. The Social Security Administration administers this program so the application for Supplemental Security Income benefits also functions as an application for Social Security benefits.

It is important to note that recipients living in almost any state may also be able to receive food assistance, but not those living in California. Check with the state where the senior or the beneficiary lives to see if the application for benefits will also function as a food assistance application.

Recipients living in most states will also be able to obtain Medicaid, which offers medical assistance benefits that pay for health care costs, such as prescription medications, doctor appointments and hospital stays. In some states, recipients who are approved to receive Supplemental Security Income are also automatically approved for Medicaid benefits; however, some states require a separate application.

Income and resources are assessed, as part of the approval process for those applying for Supplemental Security Income or SSI benefits. It must be determined that the person’s income and resources are limited for approval to occur. This often leads people to believe they will not be eligible for benefits if they own their home or other assets, such as a vehicle; however, certain assets are not considered when determining if an applicant meets the eligibility requirements. These assets include life insurance, vehicle, home and burial plots.

Assets and resources that are considered when the application for assistance is reviewed include stocks and bonds, bank accounts, cash, properties other than the primary residence, additional vehicles and assets that can be sold for cash.



Understanding the senior’s financial situation and relevant eligibility requirements prior to applying will make the Supplemental Security Income application process easier. You can also save time by contacting the state wherein the senior lives to find out whether or not this single application can also act as an application for food assistance and Medicaid benefits.


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Kate Allado, Senior Care ExpertAbout the Author: Catharine D. Allado is a Senior Care Expert and the COO of – A trusted and comprehensive online directory of Senior Care Homes such as Assisted Living, Nursing Homes and other types of Senior Housing in California, Florida, New York, Arizona and the rest of the United States. also provides FREE Assisted Living options to help seniors and families find the best Senior Housing on the planet!

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