Supplemental Security Income (SSI) paperwork alongside a pen and eyeglasses.Since its creation in 1972, the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program has provided financial support to low-income individuals who are over age 65 or have a disability.

In March 2024, more than 7.4 million people across the United States received SSI benefits.

What SSI Includes

Through SSI, qualifying individuals receive monthly payments intended to help with food and shelter costs. The 2024 maximum federal payouts per month are $943 for an individual and $1,415 for an individual with an eligible spouse.

Many states also offer supplemental payments and medical assistance. Those receiving SSI, for instance, may be able to enroll in Medicaid, which helps cover hospital costs, doctor visits, and prescription drugs.

Qualifying for SSI

As SSI is a needs-based program for people with limited means, a person must meet strict income and asset limits to qualify. In addition to meeting these criteria, an individual must have a disability, be blind, or be 65 or older. If they are over age 18, their impairment also must render them unable to work. The majority of people who qualify — 84 percent — have a disability or blindness, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Children with disabilities can qualify for SSI as well. In 2024, 1 million children with disabilities from low-income families received SSI benefits. Unlike Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), individuals may receive SSI benefits regardless of their contribution to the workforce.

SSI Income Limits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) enforces income limits to ensure SSI benefits go to those experiencing poverty. While more than half of SSI recipients have no income, others qualify because their income is quite limited.

In 2024, an individual generally must earn a monthly income of less than $1,971. For a married couple, the monthly earned income limit is $2,915. Note that earned income may include wages as well as income from some other sources, such as self-employment.

An individual on SSI can also receive up to a certain amount of “unearned” income, in the form of Social Security benefits, annuities, or certain other funding sources. Note that the SSA has certain income exclusions.

Keep in mind that some states may have higher monthly income limits than others.

SSI Asset Limit

The SSA also limits how many assets an SSI recipient can have so that the program supports those with the most significant financial need. The asset limits for 2024 are $2,000 for a single person and $3,000 for a couple.

An asset is something of value that you can convert to cash, such as a bank account, car, or home. The SSA only counts certain assets, what it calls “countable” resources, toward its resource limit.

What Counts as a Resource for SSI?

When deciding whether an applicant can receive benefits, the SSA considers the value of the applicant’s countable resources. Countable resources include the following:

When a child under age 18 applies for SSI benefits, the SSA may take into account some of the income and assets of the parent or parents with whom they live.

What Does Not Count as a Resource for SSI?

Generally, things people rely on to live and that the applicant cannot sell easily do not count as resources. The following are not countable resources for SSI eligibility:

Many people with disabilities have special needs trusts (SNTs), which help them qualify for SSI. A well-drafted SNT is not a counted asset for SSI. For the beneficiary to remain eligible for SSI benefits, the trust cannot provide cash distributions or pay for food or shelter. It can pay certain expenses directly, such as travel, recreation, and medical bills.

How to Apply for SSI Benefits

You can apply for SSI in several ways:

You can have someone call for you or assist you with your appointments.

The SSA recommends reviewing the SSI program requirements criteria before applying. As the SSA enforces stringent income and asset requirements, it rejects the majority of applications. Only four in 10 are accepted.

When an applicant does not meet the SSI program’s income and asset requirements, the SSA denies the application. If there is a question regarding whether an applicant has a qualifying disability, the SSA sends the application to state disability determination services for a medical evaluation.

Work With Your Special Needs Planning Attorney

Your special needs planning attorney can assist you with your application for Supplemental Security Income. They may also be able to help you qualify for these benefits by creating a special needs trust (SNT). The best path for you will depend on your unique circumstances.