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What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

SSI is a cash benefit for people who are disabled, blind, or over 65, and have little or no income or resources. The purpose of SSI is to help you pay for your basic living needs, such as housing costs and food. Social Security manages the SSI program.

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How much is SSI?

In 2024, the most SSI you can receive is $943 per month. Some states offer an additional cash benefit, called a State Supplemental Payment. Some people in WA State may receive a supplemental payment, but not all.

The SSI amount is based on the “Federal Benefit Rate” or FBR. Each year, the Federal government decides what the Federal Benefit Rate will be. At the beginning of most years, the FBR amount goes up, and the SSI payment you receive increases.

Is there an age limit to become eligible?

No. However, there are different disability and financial rules, depending on your age.

If you are under age 18

If you are between ages 18 and 65

If you are 65 or older

What are the disability rules?

If you are 18 or older, you must have a physical or mental disability which…

– AND –

If you are under the age of 18, Social Security does not look at how your disability might affect your ability to work.

Once you become eligible for SSI, the rules change, and you can work beyond SGA and stay eligible for SSI. This allows you to try out work and move toward your work goals without the risk of losing your benefits.

What are the income rules?

Social Security is a “means-tested” program. It has rules on how much income you can receive to be eligible for SSI. The income you receive can also reduce the size of your SSI cash benefit.

How Social Security looks at your income depends on if it is earned or unearned.

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Social Security encourages work and treats earned income more favorably than unearned income when calculating how the income affects your SSI.

Social Security does a calculation to decide how much of your income (or the income of your parents, if you are under age 18) counts toward SSI. This is called your countable income.

To understand how income is calculated, visit How does income affect my SSI?

What are the resource rules?

SSI has a $2,000 resource limit. Examples of resources include cash, bank accounts, and certain things you could sell for cash to help pay for food and shelter. Resources are looked at on the first day of each month.

There are ways to save money and be eligible for SSI. To learn more about the resource rules and ways you can save money, visit How do I budget and save money?

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A woman talking with her doctor about her Medical coverage.

Do I get medical coverage with SSI?

In Washington State and many other states, you automatically qualify for Medicaid if you are eligible for SSI.

In Washington State, Medicaid is called “Apple Health.”

Medicaid can help pay for hospital and medical costs, prescriptions, and therapies. It can also help pay for in-home support and help to engage and work in your community.

Learn more about Medicaid here.

How do I apply for SSI?

You can start the SSI application by going to the webpage, Apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If you need support, you can schedule an initial appointment with Social Security to discuss the process.

Social Security will ask you for a lot of information related to your disability and your finances. Having all your information organized and ready is a good first step when applying.

Here are some resources on applying for SSI:

*BenefitU and its benefits planners do not directly help people apply for benefits.

Want to lean more?

You can learn all about SSI through our video training series, A Look at Title XVI (SSI).

What you need to know about Social Security

Susan Harrell (00:10):
[ ♪ Music ♪].

Susan Harrell (00:12):
This is Susan Harrell from the Washington Initiative for Supported Employment. Social Security and Medical Benefits and Work Incentives: Social Security provides cash benefits to individuals with disabilities. These benefits give individuals income, which allows them to learn personal responsibility, and can provide them with the resources to pay for housing, food, and other items. This is a great, concrete way for individuals to learn about money and budgeting. Getting on cash benefits can also provide you with medical benefits. Medical benefits allow people to access needed medical services and medical equipment. In addition, Medicaid, one of the medical benefits programs, can provide individuals with funding for residential and vocational services, as well as personal care services. In order to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, an individual must have a disability that meets Social Security’s definition of disability, which is defined for people over the age of 18, as the inability to engage in any Substantial Gainful Activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which may be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

Susan Harrell (01:42):
A person who’s capable of, or who is earning more than a certain monthly amount, is usually considered to be engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity or SGA. The amount of monthly earnings considered as SGA depends on the nature of a person’s disability. There is a higher SGA level for individuals who are statutorily blind than for others. Both SGA amounts generally change each year to see what the current SGA amount is. Please check out this document in the document library.

Susan Harrell (02:24):
The best time to apply for most people is after they’ve reached the age of 18. To file for benefits, you will need to contact Social Security for an application and for additional information. You can call +1 800-772-1213 or visit their website or contact a local Social Security office. You will need to fill out an application form, which includes information detailing the disability, how it affects your life, and how it affects your ability to work at a Substantial Gainful Activity level. Once you submit the application, Social Security checks to verify age, employment history, income, marital status, Social Security coverage. They send the file to the Washington State Disability Determination Services then. The office is also known as DDDS. This office is contracted by Social Security to determine if the individual qualifies for disability benefits by meeting Social Security’s definition of disability. The people at DDDS, they don’t know you.

Susan Harrell (03:36):

They may never meet you. And in order for them to determine your eligibility, they will read through the information that you provide. They’ll contact medical professionals for information as needed, and they may ask for an independent medical examination. It is extremely important to provide lots of information that verifies your disability or tells your story, which may include pictures, if a picture may show the disability, descriptive statements from family, friends, providers, school staff, or others, which describes the effect that your disability has on living and working in the community, and the kinds of supports that you need to be involved in community activities. An overview or a day in the life of where you, your parents, or others tell the story of what supports you need to get through a day in your life can be helpful. It is really preferable to speak about what supports you need on the worst day, as that is the level of support that you need to have available.

Susan Harrell (04:39):
Use the new place outlook to guide the information sharing, where you imagine being in an unfamiliar place without any help. What would be an issue for you? Would you be able to get up by yourself, dress yourself, prepare food for yourself, obtain transportation to necessary places and purchase what you need? The work that you do ahead of time in pulling together this paperwork will help smooth the way for an approval. Be sure to collect information from a variety of resources, including your medical professionals. It may be difficult for the Disability Determination staff to get these records from your doctor or from your school, from your counselor or your case manager. If they can’t get the information, they may not be able to approve your application. So it is best to get the information yourself and provide it to them.

Susan Harrell (05:33):
Once you’re on benefits, it is important to go ahead and get additional information about how the benefits may be affected by other income, resources, or your living situation. Remember receiving benefits can be helpful, but work is really essential if you ever want to have more money. You can work and retain needed benefits. Did you know that students receiving Supplemental Security or SSI payments from Social Security have a Work Incentive called the Student Earned Income Exclusion, which allows them to have thousands of dollars of income from employment each year, and this income is not counted against the SSI benefits? This Work Incentive can put thousands of extra dollars in your pocket each year that you work when you are in school clear up to the age of 22.

Susan Harrell (06:29):
There are many other Work Incentives that are available for cash and medical benefits, as well as for public housing and other benefits. Work Incentives encourage an individual’s work efforts by reducing the impact that work or work-related expenses or resources may have on the amount of cash or other benefits received. And by offering ways to help pay for needed services or equipment that is necessary for work. You can contact a benefits planner or a community Work Incentive Coordinator for more information about your specific benefits. Benefits planning allows people with disabilities to access knowledgeable resources to address questions about benefits and Work Incentive supports and services. This reduces fear and misunderstanding and helps people achieve the employment outcomes that improve the quality of their life so that they can have better financial stability. This also prevents crisis situations that can result when change occurs. For instance, a new job or a raise. And it reduces the possibility of unexpected loss of healthcare or cash benefits. This improves employment and economic outcomes. A study of Vermont’s Benefits Counseling System showed the individuals who utilize benefits, planning services, experienced, increased employment, increased earnings, and decreased medical expenses.

Do you have questions about your benefits?

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