How to Qualify for SSI

Becky put her heart and soul into her life's work: raising her children. As any stay-at-home parent can attest, this might be the most challenging job on the market. Now, Becky is disabled and her kids are grown. She needs help. Because Becky did not work, she did not earn enough work credits for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI). The good news is that there still might be help available.

Although she is not eligible for SSDI, she might be able to qualify for SSI.  SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income. The supplemental income is provided through a monthly check to those who are deemed disabled. To qualify, you must be medically disabled AND meet certain financial qualifications which are described below.

Medical Requirements

The medical criteria for SSI is that your medical conditions are so severe that they would prevent you from being able to perform fulltime work activities.  The Social Security Administration calls this Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). Substantial Gainful Activity is any activity (with some exceptions) that generates over a set amount of monthly income ($1,040 in 2013).

If you have questions about the exceptions, or questions about some of the exceptions to these rules, speak with an attorney who can help you understand these qualifications and how they apply to you.

Financial Requirements

The financial requirements are a bit more complex. Basically, to qualify for SSI you must pass through very low income and asset limits set up by the Social Security Administration. Social Security's asset limits say that you cannot have assets that are worth two thousand dollars as an individual or three thousand dollars as a family. There are several types of assets that are excluded, such as your hours or your primary vehicle. Read more about SSI asset limits and exclusions in more detail.

Social Security's income limits are much like those you would experience when applying for food stamps. The more income you have, the less SSI benefits are available. If your countable income is too high, then you cannot receive any SSI benefits. Currently the maximum amount of SSI benefits that you receive is $710 per month.

When determining what income is "countable" for SSI purposes, things start to get very complicated, very quickly. Not all sources of income are actually treated as income. Read more about what income is not counted or is excluded for purposes of calculating SSI benefits.

In short, the Social Security Administration takes your total household income and subtracts the income that is excluded to come up with your "countable income". Then SSA will subtract your "countable income" from the maximum SSI federal benefit rate (currently $710) to come up with your personalized monthly SSI benefit amount. Check out an example of how SSI benefits are calculated.

Qualifying for SSI can be a very complicated subject and can become overwhelming at times. For questions about how to qualify for SSI, talk to an experienced attorney. Many times your eligibility will turn on very case specific details. Having an attorney review your financial situation can be very helpful in determining your eligibility for SSI benefits.

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