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There are two separate programs run by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for those who are disabled and cannot work — Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). There are very different qualifying factors for each program. Despite this, they are often thought of as one and the same.

What is SSI?

SSI is a needs-based program run by the SSA for disabled children and adults that have limited income and resources. It also assists the blind and those over 65 who are not disabled, but have income limitations. Unlike SSDI, SSI is not funded by Social Security taxes. SSDI is reserved for those who have paid into Social Security, while SSI is available to those who have not paid into Social Security.

What do I receive if I’m approved for SSI?

In 2016, individuals who are approved for SSI will receive $733 per month. Couples will receive $1,100 per month. Those who qualify for SSI also receive health insurance under Medicaid.

Do I qualify for SSI?

Disabled under 65

Must suffer from a physical or mental impairment that prevents you from performing any substantial gainful activity, meaning you cannot work to earn above a certain level. Your disability must be expected to last 12 consecutive months or more, or result in death.


You must have limited income. Types of income recognized by the SSA in addition to wages include: Social Security benefits, workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, the Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, money from friends or relatives, and any free food or shelter.


You must have limited resources. According to the SSA, resources are defined as: cash, bank accounts, stocks, U.S. savings bonds, land, vehicles, personal property, life insurance and anything else that could be converted into cash.

If you are an individual you must:
  • Have less than $2,000 in resources
  • Only own one automobile
  • Only own one home (must be your primary residence) 
If you are married, you must:
  • Have less than $3,000 in resources
  • Only own one automobile
  • Only own one home (must be your primary residence) 

Disabled child

Must be under 18 years old (or 22 if regularly attending school) and suffer from a physical or mental impairment that results in severe functional limitations. The impairment(s) must be expected to last 12 or more consecutive months or result in death.

Blind adult or child

Must meet the SSA’s definition of blindness. Must have a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in your better eye with use of a correcting lens, or have a visual field limitation in your better eye, such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees.

Adult 65 and older with limited resources

Must be aged 65 and older and meet income and resource restrictions. Please refer to the section above entitled, “Disabled under 65” for information about income and resource limits.

How do I apply for SSI?

Before you begin your application for SSI, you’ll need the following information readily available:
  • Social Security card or number. If you do not have one, you’ll need to apply for one.
  • Proof of age. A public birth certificate before age 5, a religious birth certificate before age 5 or another document that shows your date of birth and age is acceptable.
  • Citizenship or alien status record.
    • If you are a citizen, records include: a U.S. birth certificate, a religious birth or baptism certificate showing your birth in the U.S., a naturalization certificate, a U.S. passport or a certificate of citizenship.
    • If you are an alien, records include: a current immigration document (an I-551 Permanent Resident Card) or an I-94 Arrival/Departure Record.
    • Proof of income. Examples include: earned income – payroll stubs, a tax return for the previous year; and unearned income – award letters, bank statements, court orders that list how much you receive and how frequently.
    • Proof of resources. You may need to provide: bank statements for all checking and savings accounts, deed or tax appraisal statements for property you own besides your home, life or disability insurance policies, burial contracts or plots, certificates of deposit, stocks, bonds, and titles or registrations for any vehicles owned.
    • Proof of living arrangements. Documentation includes: lease or rent receipts; names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers for all household members; deed or property tax bill; and information about household costs such as rent, utilities, food, etc.
    • Medical sources (if you are filing for disability). Be sure to have any medical reports; the names, addresses and phone numbers of all doctors; and the names of all prescription and non-prescription medications you take.
    • Work history. Have a list of the following prepared: job titles, name of employer(s), dates worked, days worked per week, pay rates for the 15 years prior to becoming unable to work, and descriptions of your job duties.
    • Other information for children. If you are applying for children’s benefits or on behalf of a disabled child, the SSA will need the names and phone numbers of people (teachers, caregivers, etc.) who can attest that the child’s medical condition affects his/her daily activities. 

Filling out your SSI application

You can apply online here. Be sure to double check that you meet the eligibility requirements and have all necessary documentation available. Click on “Start new application” to begin your SSI application.


You can also apply over the phone. You can call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday for assistance.


You can apply in person at your local Social Security office. Find your local office here. Be sure to make an appointment in order to receive assistance.