Who can apply for Supplemental Security Income benefits?

Last week marked an important milestone for the Supplemental Security Income program. Forty years ago on Oct. 30, President Richard Nixon signed the Social Security Amendments of 1972. This created the SSI program and the program became available to vulnerable adults and disabled folks in 1974. Today, about 8 million Americans are benefiting from this program.

The program was created to provide aid to specific groups of vulnerable Americans. Those who are blind, the disabled, and folks who are over the age of 65 are eligible for SSI benefits if they have little to no income. SSI payments help to provide folks with the money they need to pay for basic necessities like food, clothing and housing.

Although about 8 million Americans receive SSI payments every year, thousands of applications are denied each year. This is because folks must meet specific requirements to be considered disabled and one's income and assets must be minimal.

To be eligible for SSI benefits, an individual can have no more than $2,000 in resources and a couple applying for benefits can have no more than $3,000 in resources. It is important to note that not all resources are taken into consideration when applying for benefits. For example, one's home, household goods and personal effects are not included as resources. A vehicle that is often used to transport the individual who is applying for benefits is also not included as a resource.

If an individual is applying for benefits because he or she is disabled, the applicant must meet the Social Security Administration's definition of disabled. Children who are disabled are also eligible to apply for SSI benefits.

Because the SSI program provides financial support for basic needs, monthly benefit payments are typically much smaller that Social Security Disability Insurance payments. This year, the maximum monthly benefit payment was $698. The average monthly SSI payment this year was $520.

The SSI program is meant to provide vulnerable Americans with the income they need to pay for basic living expenses. Obtaining benefits is not a simple task, though, and making a mistake when filing an application could have damaging consequences. If you are in need of benefits, you may want to consider working with an attorney who can help you obtain the benefits you may be entitled to receive.

Source: Huffington Post, "Happy Birthday, SSI: A Safety Net for Vulnerable Americans," Donna Meltzer, Oct. 30, 2012

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