Page Reviewed / Updated - Jan. 2014
Supplemental Security Income is provided to financially needy seniors that have extremely limited income and assets. The program evaluates one's income and fills in the gap to bring their income up to pre-determined level. Therefore the benefit amount any individual receives is dependent on their income.
For most seniors, the average additional benefit for SSI is approximately $400 / month. The maximum benefit for 2014 is $721. While this alone cannot cover the cost of home care or assisted living, there is no time limit on receiving assistance. One can continue to receive help for as long as they are financially eligible. In addition, most states offer a supplement to the federal SSI payments called State Supplementary Payments (SSP) or Optional State Supplements (OSS). These amounts and eligibility requirements differ in each state. Learn more here.
Unlike Social Security benefits, SSI benefits are not based on an individual or their family member's prior work. As seniors receive payments directly from the government, they or their loved ones are free to apply those dollars towards any need they have including home care, adult day care, assisted living or home modifications to enable aging in place.
The minimum age to collect SSI is 65 unless the individual is officially designated as blind or disabled by the Social Security Administration. Under these circumstances, persons age 18 and over can be eligible.
There are no disability or health requirements to qualify for Supplemental Security Income. However being blind or disabled supersedes the age requirement of 65 years.
Supplemental Security Income eligibility has both income and asset limits. To be eligible, one's countable monthly income cannot exceed the benefit amount. In 2014, that amount is $721 for an individual and $1,082 for a married couple.
The countable asset or resource limit has not changed for 2014. Individual's assets cannot exceed $2,000 and married couples' assets cannot exceed $3,000. Resources include the following:
Notable exceptions to countable resources are:
One marital status does not affect eligibility directly, however it does so indirectly by increasing the couple's monthly income limit. Veteran status does not affect eligibility. Nor are there geographic requirements however it should be noted that some states offer additional SSI assistance beyond what is available at a federal level.
Supplemental Security Income is a cash payment made monthly directly to the individual. There are no restrictions on how the Supplemental Security Income payments can be spent. In the context of eldercare, the benefits can be used to pay for home or adult day care, assisted living or nursing home care and / or home modifications and medical equipment to enable aging in place.
For 2014, the maximum benefit amount is $721 for an individual and $1,082 for a married couple in which both spouses qualify. This is equal to an annual benefit of approximately $8,657 for an individual or $12,984 for a couple.
The application process is extensive as the SSA must verify the applicant's income and their countable assets. Potential beneficiaries should expect the complete process from beginning an application to receiving the first benefit check to take anywhere for 3 - 6 months. Annual re-verification of finances is required.
There are no costs associated with an application. However, some individuals elect to retain private financial planners to help them with the process. These individuals will charge for their assistance.
The easiest and best way to begin the application process is by taking the Social Security Administration's benefits screening test. This questionnaire takes approximately 5 minutes to complete and screens for a variety of benefits, not just for SSI. One can begin the process here.
Government assistance is also available for the application process (though not with the preparation of finances). Read more here.