The Social Security Administration (SSA) runs a number of retirement, survivor, and disability programs throughout the United States which are primarily paid for through the federal social security tax. The SSA currently provides benefits to over 64 million Americans and has been providing financial assistance for 86 years since the agency’s inception in 1935 as a part of Roosevelt’s New Deal program.
One specific program the SSA runs that offers cash payments to qualifying low-income Americans is called Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
SSI Federal Payment Amounts For 2022
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What Is SSI?
SSI is a broad income supplement program that provides a monthly benefit to eligible low-income Americans to help with living expenses. The program targets those with disabilities, those who are blind, and those who are over the age of 65. All applicants must also meet income and asset requirements as this is primarily a program for very low-income individuals. Currently, the SSI program provides benefits to more than 7.7 million people across the country. Of these beneficiaries, roughly 70% of them are disabled or blind, and 30% are elderly.
With the passing of the Social Security Act in 1935, several programs were implemented on the state and federal levels to help the blind, disabled, and elderly. However, the SSI program did not begin until 1974. Prior to this time, most aid for disabled Americans was decided upon and administered at the state level, leaving wide disparities across the country.
During this time, the federal government provided grants to individual states and let them run these adult-assistance programs. These were primarily targeted to those who were not yet eligible to receive the standard Social Security retirement benefit but still needed financial assistance to meet their basic needs. However, it gradually became clear that not all Americans were getting what they needed since there were so many differences in how each state determined need and distributed aid.
To address the uneven distribution of funds, Congress passed new legislation in 1972 making this assistance a federal responsibility, yet still allowing states to maintain their own programs if they wish. Since then, the federal government, along with several state-run programs, have provided a monthly SSI cash benefit to needy Americans.
The SSI program requires you to either be disabled, blind, or over the age of 65. After you meet this basic requirement, the amount an individual can receive is primarily based on their income level and household, i.e. if you’re married or have any dependents. Unlike many other SSA programs, you do not have to be “insured” to qualify, meaning there are no work credits required like there are with SSDI benefits and SSA retirement benefits.
SSI is a needs-based program. To ensure that benefits are handed out fairly, it is also means-tested – meaning all your income sources and resources will be accounted for and periodically reviewed when determining eligibility. SSI is sometimes referred to as a “program of last resort,” meaning that you’ll be required to apply for any other programs you may be eligible for, and only then will SSI pay out an amount to lift your income to a predetermined level.
The federal government sets a maximum benefit amount that can be paid to those who qualify, but states may also choose to supplement this amount and add on to the monthly benefits. Right now, 46 states and the District of Columbia all have programs in place to supplement the federal SSI payment, but it’s not always the case that all who qualify will get this additional amount.
Currently, only Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota, and West Virginia do not have supplement programs in place. The amount that state residents can expect to receive varies widely and ranges from $10 to $400. States with the highest average supplemental payments are currently New Jersey, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Maryland.
Each state handles these supplemental benefits differently which makes it difficult to give an accurate prediction of how much an individual can expect to get. Some states have a set amount they add on for all SSI recipients, while others will vary the amount based on income and living situations. For example, a state may designate a smaller amount for an unmarried individual living alone and a larger amount for someone residing in an assisted living facility. Furthermore, some states have tighter income requirements than the federal government sets out, and you may qualify for more or less supplemental payments based on your income.
One common point of confusion surrounding the various benefit programs overseen by the SSA is the difference between SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Though these two Social Security disability benefits programs both serve similar groups of people, they are not the same.
SSDI benefits are only available to individuals with disabilities and who have “paid into” the system by having a sufficient work history. The SSA evaluates your work history by looking at how many qualifying quarters you’ve worked and how old you are. There are minimums for how much you have to earn each quarter, but they are fairly low ($1,470 per quarter in 2021, or $490 per month) and once you meet them, there is no dollar amount that you have to have paid in to earn benefits.
For SSDI benefits, your work credits are based on two factors: the duration of work and your recent work. In general, you earn one work credit for every quarter (three month period) you work, meaning the average worker can earn four credits per year. The number of work credits you need to have accumulated changes based on your age. Waivers are available for those whose disability has severely impacted their ability to earn for most of their working life.
Those who are 31 or older typically need to have accumulated at least 20 work credits, or worked for five of the last ten years. Those between the ages of 24 and 31 typically need to have worked at least half the time since they turned 21 (so if you’re 27 you need to have worked at least three or the last six years). If you are under the age of 24, you need at least six work credits, or to have worked for 1.5 years out of the last three.
SSDI generally pays out a higher disability benefit and is harder to qualify for. However, it is possible to qualify for both SSI and SSDI if you meet all criteria. Additionally, SSI and SSDI are funded from different sources, though they are both supported through taxpayer expense. SSDI receives funding from two major taxes, the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FCIA) and the Self-Employment Contributions Act (SECA). These are federal taxes paid for by both the employee and the employer, or by the self-employed in the case of SECA.
SSI, on the other hand, receives its funding from the general funds which primarily draws from personal income taxes and corporate taxes.
There are three main groups of people who may be eligible for an SSI benefit:
- Over the age of 65
In some cases, children who are blind or disabled may also qualify for an SSI payment. However, even within these general criteria, there are more specific requirements applicants must meet. For example, to have your disability approved it must be considered severe enough to limit your ability to earn money and must be projected to last for at least 12 months or end in death. For a child’s disability, it must impose severe functional limitations.
Since SSI is a needs-based program, there are also income limits that applicants must meet. SSI beneficiaries must show they have little to no income or resources, with “income” counted as earnings such as wages, Social Security benefits, pensions, retirement payouts, dividends, in-kind contributions (such as free food or shelter), rent received from roommates, and any deemed income. However, it does not count income such as income tax refunds, food stamps, disaster assistance, and certain earnings for students under the age of 22.
Common resources (or assets) that can be counted against you are personal property, vehicles, land, life insurance, or investment accounts. However, many of these may be excluded and not counted such as your primary residence, your main vehicle for transportation, or life insurance policies with a value of less than $1,500. SSI currently limits resources to $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple.
To get a full picture of your potential SSI eligibility, the process of “deeming” may be used. In general, deeming means that the SSA may count income that someone else in your household earns and adds that to your total income. This could happen if you qualify for SSI disability benefits but your spouse does not and they are still able to earn some kind of income. In this case, a portion of your spouse’s income may be calculated into your total income. That said, deeming is seen most often when children are applying for SSI benefits. Since children typically don’t earn any income themselves the SSA has come up with different criteria to determine eligibility.
If the child is under the age of 18, unmarried, and still living with their parents, a portion of the parent’s income will be counted for the child. This can also apply to a step-parent or adoptive parent if they live with the child. There are deductions that parents are allowed to take to reduce the amount of their counted income. Certain incomes like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), some VA benefits, the value of the primary residence or primary vehicle will not be counted for purposes of deeming. Additionally, there is a process that children receiving benefits must go through when they turn 18 to see if they will still qualify as adults.
You can apply for SSI benefits online, by calling or having someone else call 1-800-772-1213 on your behalf to make a telephone appointment, or by calling your local Social Security office to make an appointment. Because the requirements for qualifying are so strict, it’s highly recommended that you consult the SSA’s website to ensure you meet all the criteria for the program before applying. Regardless of what method you choose, you can download the Adult Disability Checklist on the SSA’s website to ensure you have everything you need.
If you apply online, you’ll have to sign in to your My Social Security account or create a new account if you don’t already have one. After you apply online, you can always check the status of your application by using the provided confirmation number and signing into your account. You will also be sent a paper copy of your application summary after you submit it.
It’s worth noting that benefits can only be paid from the starting date of your application, so you should apply as soon as possible. If you need help applying, you can obtain free assistance from the SSA and someone will help you gather the necessary documents and help you fill out the application. You can also request help from someone you know like a friend or family member, or request to have an SSA representative help you. Interpreters are also available at no cost to you. In some cases, if you’re attempting to qualify due to a disability or blindness but lack the relevant medical documentation, the SSA will set up an appointment and pay for you to receive the test or diagnosis that you need to qualify.
All applicants must provide general information such as their Social Security number, proof of age, citizenship status, proof of income (including earned income and unearned income) and resources, work history, and comprehensive medical evidence if applicable. Note that most documents will need to be in their original form.
Most recipients receive their monthly payment via electronic deposit that you must set up during the application process. However, you can also choose to use the Direct Express card program to receive funds. With this program, you can receive a physical card and each month your payment will be directly added to it. You can use it just like a debit card.
It’s important to understand that your payment amounts may change from month to month. Part of complying with the SSI program is that you must notify the SSA anytime you have a change in your income. Most months, your payment will be based on your income from two months prior, so if you had a change in income such as being employed temporarily, receiving a cash inheritance, or receiving another non-recurring income source, your payments will change to account for this.
However, those with a fixed income and no real opportunities to earn or gain more will see more or less the same amount each month. This amount may increase each year to account for cost of living increases.
Many first-time applications are denied for reasons such as a lack of evidence, an incomplete form, or not meeting the income requirements. If your initial application is not accepted, you have the right to appeal. When you appeal a denial, the process must be completed in a specified series of steps.
The first step is to request reconsideration. This must be done within 60 days of receiving your first denial and can be done by you or on your behalf by your representative. In this first stage, you are simply asking the SSA to review your initial application to see if an error was made.
If your reconsideration request was denied and you wish to move on to the second stage of appeals, many people choose to hire a disability lawyer or disability advocate to help their case. As you progress higher in your appeal, the process becomes more complex and it can help to have an experienced professional working with you to ensure you have the best chances of gaining approval.
The second level of the appeals process must be initiated within 60 days of your reconsideration denial. In this stage, you will request a hearing before a judge. You can bring forward new evidence, witnesses, or documentation that you feel helps your case. If, after your hearing, you disagree with the judge’s decision you can then request your case be brought to the appeals council. Like the previous two steps, this must be done within 60 days of your most recent denial. The last step in this process is to bring your case to the federal court where you’ll schedule a hearing with the U.S. District Court closest to you.
Yes, SSI recipients can lose their benefits. The most common way this happens is if they fail to meet the income requirements. The program requires that you notify the SSA of any changes in your income (even temporary ones). If you exceed the income or assets limits, you can lose your monthly benefit. It’s also possible to lose your benefits due to your disability improving or being cured altogether, though this is rather rare. The SSA will perform periodic continuing disability reviews (CDR) to ensure you still meet the medical criteria for benefits like SSDI and SSI.
However, the SSA doesn’t want to discourage people from working. The administration has designed several work incentives and programs to help beneficiaries return to work if they’re physically and mentally able. One such program is called Ticket to Work. This program provides free employment services to beneficiaries to help them find employment and develop a sustainable career path. While you’re enrolled in the Ticket to Work program, the SSA will not perform any CDRs as an incentive to find work without having to worry about losing your benefits.
There is also a provision that allows some SSI beneficiaries to keep receiving payments even after they return to work. To qualify, you must have already been eligible for SSI payments for at least one month and you must still be disabled. This is usually reserved for those with the most severe disabilities and there are still income and earning criteria that you must meet.
Since many SSI recipients also receive other government benefits such as health insurance through Medicaid, they may be concerned about losing these other assistance programs if they lose SSI. However, many people who “earn out” of SSI may still qualify for Medicaid as long as they can prove they still need the health coverage to work. They will also still have to fall under certain income thresholds that are a little higher than the SSI criteria.
If you do lose your benefits, you can often have them reinstated once you meet the criteria again and this can usually be done without having to submit a new application.
Many people in need of cash assistance may find they qualify for Social Security benefits including Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI recipients must meet limited income requirements in addition to being disabled, blind, or over the age of 65. For many, this monthly payment allows them to meet their basic needs and supplement other disability insurance they may also receive.
Those who are interested in learning more about receiving a federal SSI payment can contact their local Social Security field office to help them determine their eligibility, gather documentation, and submit their application. The SSA website also provides detailed information about the SSI program in English and Spanish. For personalized assistance, reach out to an SSDFacts Advisor today for a free disability evaluation.