Supplemental Security Income provides benefits to individuals with low income and a qualifying disability. Anyone can apply for SSI after reaching age 65 -- or if you are disabled, there is no age limit -- even if you are in perfect health. You must also apply for all other benefit programs available to you, such as Social Security or an employer-sponsored retirement plan.
To qualify as disabled, you must have a physical or mental condition that makes it impossible for you to support yourself by working. The disability must be expected either to last at least one year or result in death. For example, with blindness, you must be able to demonstrate that your vision is severely impaired and meets the criteria for statutory blindness. Your vision must be 20/200 or worse with corrective lenses in your better eye, or your visual field must be limited to the point that its widest diameter subtends at an angle less than 20 degrees.
In addition to meeting the age or disability criteria, you must also qualify on the basis of income. The eligibility threshold adjusts periodically to reflect the current cost of living. For 2014, single individuals are limited to earning $721 per month, and married couples are limited to $1,066 per month. Your income includes unemployment benefits, Social Security, workers' compensation awards and payments from the Veterans Administration. You must also estimate the value of any help you receive from friends and relatives, such as free food or housing. Certain types of income are excluded, such as food stamps, payments from state or federal need-based assistance programs and income tax refunds.
Your assets cannot exceed $2,000 for single individuals and $3,000 for married couples. This includes all bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other investment accounts. You may exclude your home, one personal vehicle and life insurance or burial funds up to $1,500 each for you and your spouse. Household goods and personal effects are also excluded, so you do not have to count sentimental items such as your wedding ring. Scholarships and grants for education are excluded for nine months after you receive the funds.
Citizenship and Residency Requirements
Only U.S. citizens and qualified aliens may receive SSI benefits. You are not eligible if you are facing an active warrant for deportation. You may not leave the country for more than 30 consecutive days or a full calendar month. You must be a resident of the 50 states, the District of Columbia or the Northern Mariana Islands.
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