Very low-income and disabled people can apply to the federal Supplemental Security Income program for money to meet their basic needs. It's the primary federal cash assistance program serving low-income individuals.
You may be eligible for SSI if you have limited income and are:
- over 65
- a United States citizen or permanent resident alien.
Before applying for SSI, you must apply to other programs for which you may be eligible, such as Social Security.
Blind or Disabled
For SSI purposes, an individual is considered blind if his visual acuity measures less than 20/200 in the better eye. That's with the use of correctional glasses. The better eye can a wide visual field angle of no more than 20 degrees.
Individuals older than 18 are considered disabled if their mental or physical condition:
- lasts at least a year, or is expected to last at least that long
- renders them unable to engage in "substantial gainful activity," or working for profit
- is likely to cause death.
For children under 18, the definition of blindness is the same as for adults. For disabilities, however, there is another factor. The child must have "marked and severe functional limitations."
Income and Resources
As of 2015, if your monthly income from work exceeds $1,090, you are not considered disabled for SSI purposes. Individuals eligible for SSI can't have resources -- cash, bank accounts, stocks and bonds -- totaling more than $2,000. A couple may have combined resources of up to $3,000. Certain resources do not count toward the total. These include:
- your home
- burial plots or burial funds worth less than $1,500
- life insurance policies worth less than $1,500
- one motor vehicle, if used for personal transportation
- your household goods, such as furniture
- engagement rings and wedding rings.
After initially filing your application for SSI, the Social Security Administration, which oversees the program, decides whether you qualify based on your disability, income and resources. If you get past this first hurdle, you must provide additional information. This includes:
- your work history for the previous 15 years, prior to becoming disabled
- physician contact information
- information about your disabilities
- prescription and over-the-medication currently taken, including the prescribing doctor's name
- medical tests and treatments, and the names of the relevant physicians.
The application for a child with disabilities must include information regarding the child's school and teachers.
The SSA collects the information, but does not make the decision regarding the disability. That's the purview of Disability Determination Services. While the applicant doesn't meet with DDS representatives, this bureau may contact the individual for more information. The DDS also may arrange for additional medical examinations or tests. Expect a decision within four months of the application.