What is Supplemental Security Income?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2019
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Supplemental security income (SSI), which should not be confused with social security payments, is a type of income that may assist those qualifying with basic expenses. There are only a few groups of people that qualify for this United States income assistance program, and the principal considerations are age (over 65), or disability with economic need. SSI might assist seniors, for example, with extremely low incomes, or it can be used to help support children with extreme disabilities or blindness. One of the benefits of this program is that qualifying for even a dollar of supplemental security income automatically entitles a person to receive Medicaid, which can help defer medical costs.

The Supplemental Security Income program for the Aged, Blind, and Disabled wasn’t created until the 1970s. It is a latecomer to the different benefit programs initially conceived of with social security laws. Prior to its inception, most assistance to these groups of people who would qualify was handled by individual states, and states are still very much involved in administering the program. When people qualify by income, they get a federally regulated amount of money, but some states add funds so that the payment is not always the same from state to state. In addition to this, the specific federal amount depends on income of the individual or caregivers, so that amount a person qualifies for is subject to complex formulas which are subject to change.


Most apply for Supplemental Security Income through their social security office. People who are disabled and applying for this need to have been under 22 when their disability first occurred. Social security offices require medical documentation of disabilities and proof of present income. People must continue to submit income documentation and any health information that might suggest a change in disabled status, per request of the social security office.

Social security departments are frequently charged with denying claims based on disability, and independent review shows this charge is justified by evidence. There are a number of ways people can make an appeal if they feel they are owed SSI. Sometimes simply appealing an initial decision helps, though others may hire attorneys to fight for their right to get this income.

Even when approval is automatic, it can take several months to begin receiving income. The qualifying person should receive income from date of application. Monthly income furnished is not fully adequate support for most, although some people live on it by living in group-home settings. Having some additional income doesn’t necessarily disqualify people from receiving supplemental security income.

One the biggest advantages to SSI is automatic qualification for Medicaid. This represents a significant deferral of expenses with most medical care provided at no cost. With the high costs of insurance or even things like participation in Medicare, being part of the Medicaid program, though it has its shortfalls, can be helpful. People should discuss with a social security representative, the details of Medicaid enrollment after they receive SSI.


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Post 1

i just want to know if my son who is 30 would be eligible for SSI. he is kind of mentally unstable. he has the mind of a young child. he tries to get a job, but i think he doesn't understand certain things.

would i have to get him evaluated before he can receive SSI? or is this not a good cause?

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