What Is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

SSI assists people who qualify because of financial need, health and age.
Kurt Woock
By Kurt Woock 
Updated
Edited by Tina Orem

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Nerdy takeaways
  • SSI provides monthly income to people with limited resources and who are blind, disabled or 65 or older.

  • The 2024 maximum monthly SSI benefit is $943 for individuals and $1,415 for couples.

  • Eligibility is based on income, resources, resident status and if you are over 65 or have a disability.

Nerdy takeaways
  • SSI provides monthly income to people with limited resources and who are blind, disabled or 65 or older.

  • The 2024 maximum monthly SSI benefit is $943 for individuals and $1,415 for couples.

  • Eligibility is based on income, resources, resident status and if you are over 65 or have a disability.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a monthly Social Security benefit for people with low incomes, limited resources and who are blind, disabled or 65 or older

. The 2024 monthly maximum SSI benefit is $943 for individuals and $1,415 for couples.

How much does SSI pay?

The average SSI benefit for beneficiaries who were 65 or older in December 2023 was $552.29 per month, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA)

. This amount was slightly higher for those under 65 who were blind or disabled.

2024 SSI maximum benefit amounts

Monthly maximum SSI benefit

Annual maximum SSI benefit

Individuals living alone

$943.

$11,316.

Individuals living in another household

$629.

$7,548.

Couples living alone

$1,415.

$16,980.

Couples living in another household

$943.

$11,320.

SSI eligibility

To qualify for SSI, you must

:

  • Have limited income.

  • Have limited resources.

  • Meet residency requirements.

  • Be 65 or older, blind or disabled.

Each of these qualifications has its own set of criteria.

Starting Sept. 30, the Social Security Administration will no longer consider applicants’ access to food when determining SSI eligibility, the agency announced in March 2024. The change makes eligibility more accessible for SSI applicants who receive informal food assistance from friends, family or community groups.

Take the quiz below to see if you're likely to meet the requirements for SSI benefits.

You have limited income

To qualify for SSI, your monthly qualifying income can’t exceed the largest monthly SSI benefit allowed during that year. For 2024, the monthly maximum is $1,971 for an individual and $2,915 for a couple. The Social Security Administration may reduce your SSI benefit if you have income from other sources.

Applicant

Monthly earned income limit

65 or older, individual

$1,971

65 or older, couple

$2,915

Disabled

$1,550

Blind*

$2,590

*Although the income limits do not apply to blind individuals who apply for SSI, a blind applicant who earns more than the limit is unlikely to be approved for SSI.

When calculating income, the SSA includes:

  • Earned income, such as from a job or self-employment

    Congress.gov. Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Accessed Nov 1, 2023.
    .

  • Unearned income, such as Social Security retirement payments, pension income and dividends from investments, are also considered income

    . Unearned income typically reduces SSI benefits dollar for dollar. For example, $500 in monthly pension income could reduce your SSI benefit by $500.

  • Things or services you get for free or at a discount, including free or below-market rent, are considered income, even if you got them from family or friends. This kind of support, called in-kind support, can reduce SSI by a maximum of $324.66 per month

    . In-kind support doesn’t always reduce SSI payments dollar for dollar; the amount depends on a variety of factors, including the type of support you receive and its estimated value.

  • Income that a spouse, parent or other essential person with whom you live receives. If those people don't receive SSI, the SSA might reduce your SSI payments.

There are exceptions to what the SSA considers income for an SSI application. Resources and funds that generally aren’t considered income include:

  • Payments from assistance programs. This includes supplemental SSI payments from your state, SNAP benefits, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), HUD (Section 8) housing assistance and rebates or refunds related to rent or property taxes

    . Funds earmarked for shelter and food that non-profit organizations provide to those who are in need of support are excluded as well.

  • Payments from tribal entities. Income does not include assistance provided to tribal members through a tribe or, in some cases, tribal trust fund payments.

  • Refunds, rebates and tax credits. Money that you receive as part of a rebate program, such as rental rebates and tax refunds, are not counted as income

    . Refundable tax credits received after December 31, 2009, are also excluded.

  • Educational expenses. Income does not include money you receive to pay for educational expenses. Examples include scholarships, fellowships, grants and even monetary gifts that others give you to pay for school.

  • Loans. If you have to repay a loan, the value of the loan is not counted as income (because you’ll have to pay it back).

  • Disaster relief assistance. Funds that you receive for qualifying for disaster relief assistance do not count as income.

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You have limited resources

The value of any cash, investments and personal property you own can’t exceed $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 as a couple. Resources include available cash or a bank account, as well as anything that can be turned into cash, such as stocks, bonds or property that can be sold

SSA.gov. Spotlight on Resources. Accessed Nov 1, 2023.
.

Like with the income rules, there are exceptions. Common examples include a house you own (as long as you’re living in it), one vehicle and household goods.

You meet the residency requirement

To qualify for SSI, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or national. There are some exceptions, including for some refugees.

  • Live in a U.S. state, Washington, D.C., or the Northern Mariana Islands.

  • Not leave the U.S. for more than a calendar month or 30 consecutive days.

You are at least 65 or have a disability

You must meet at least one of these conditions.

  • You are 65 years old or older.

  • You are blind. The SSA defines blindness as your better eye having 20/200 or less in central visual acuity with a corrective lens or a limited visual field to the point of the widest diameter of vision being no more than 20 degrees

    .

  • You have a qualifying disability. The SSA defines a disability as a physical, mental, emotional or learning impairment that is likely to last for at least one year or can be expected to lead to death. If you are younger than 18, the disability must severely limit your ability to function. If you are 18 or older, the disability must prevent you from finding substantial gainful activity.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Some people cannot receive SSI benefits even if they meet all of the qualifications. Examples include people who have certain arrest or unsatisfied felony warrants, are currently in jail or prison, are committed to a public institution or are out of the country for 30 days or more.

How are SSI payments calculated?

The size of a person's monthly SSI benefits is based on their countable income and whether they live in a state that pays its own additional benefits

. The less income and fewer resources someone has, the closer their SSI payment will be to the maximum amount. If an applicant makes more money than the maximum income limit, they will not qualify for SSI assistance.

When calculating monthly income, the SSA excludes the first $20 of income, regardless of whether it’s earned or unearned income — and when calculating monthly earned income, the SSA excludes the first $65 from your monthly earnings, such as your paycheck

.

After deducting these amounts, the SSA divides your total income by half. The result is your countable income for calculating SSI, which reduces your monthly benefit dollar for dollar.

In other words, every dollar of countable income is a dollar that is subtracted from your SSI payment.

Use the calculator below to estimate your monthly SSI benefit based on your income.

What other benefits can I get with SSI?

Food assistance. SSI beneficiaries may also qualify for food assistance programs. Some states automatically review SSI applications to determine if an applicant can also receive assistance, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

State supplemental benefits. Forty-four states have programs that provide additional amounts, called supplements, to SSI recipients (Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia don't; nor do the Northern Mariana Islands). In some states, the SSA administers these additional payments. Qualifications and details for those programs vary by state

.

How to get SSI

You can apply for SSI online or in person. To apply online, go to SSA.gov and answer a series of questions. You’ll have to submit supporting documents to complete your application. To apply in person, call 800-772-1213 (or TTY 800-325-0778 if you’re hard of hearing or deaf) to schedule an appointment to apply for benefits. The SSA agent will schedule your appointment and let you know if you need to come in person or can do it over the phone

. You can check your application’s status online as well.

The SSA will send you a letter to tell you if you’ve been approved for benefits.

You’ll need to provide the following information when applying for SSI:

  • The city, state and country in which you were born.

  • Proof of income, such as pay stubs, tax returns, pension or retirement statements, alimony and child support agreements and disability payments.

  • Proof of resources, such as bank statements, dividend or stock values, vehicle titles, loan statements and life insurance policies.

  • Information about your living arrangements, including proof of ownership if you own your home or your landlord’s information if you are renting and a rental contract.

  • Information about marriages, such as current and former spouses’ names, Social Security numbers and dates of marriages and divorces.

  • Banking information for direct deposit of benefit payments.

🤓Nerdy Tip

You do not have to have a bank account to receive SSI benefits. A prepaid debit card is also available.

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