How to Calculate SSI Benefits

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The Social Security Administration, or SSA, pays Supplementary Security Income, called SSI, to low-income people who are elderly or have disabilities. SSI is given to people who otherwise would qualify for Social Security disability benefits but do not have sufficient work history to qualify for full disability benefits. The maximum monthly amount of SSI was $674 as of June 2010. You can apply for SSI at your local SSA office, or at 800-772-1213, or at ssa.gov.

Multiply $674 by two-thirds if you are homeless or if you live with someone that pays all of the shelter costs. SSA reduces the amount of SSI you receive if you do not have shelter, since it is expected that you use a portion of your SSI for shelter. Couples receive a maximum of $1,011 per month in SSI. Couples should use this figure to calculate their SSI amount.

Subtract any paybacks or other automatic deductions from your check, if you have any.

Make a list of all sources of income for the month. Divide this list into earned and unearned income. Earned income includes employment earnings. Unearned income includes pensions and other non-employment earnings.

For example, if someone receives $300 per month in Social Security Disability, $100 per month from a part-time job and $100 per month from a family trust, that person has $400 per month in unearned income and $100 per month in earned income. These figures will be used for subsequent steps.

Add up all sources of unearned income and subtract $20 from this amount. Subtract this total from your total. Using the figures from Step 3, the calculation would be: 674 - (400 - 20) = 674 - 380 = $294.

Add up all sources of earned income and subtract $20 from this amount. If you subtracted $20 in Step 4, you do not need to subtract $20 again. Subtract another $65 from your earned income total. Divide this number by 2 and subtract the result from your SSI. After completing this step, you will have your SSI amount for the month. Using the figure from Step 4, the calculation would be: 294 - ( (100 - 65) / 2 ) = 294 - (35 / 2) = 294 - 17.5 = 276.5. This amount rounds up to $277.

For the example, the breakdown of monthly income by source per month is: - SSI = $277 - Social Security disability = $300 - Family trust = $100 - Employment earnings = $100 This yields a total monthly income of $777.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some states supplement SSI checks. If you live in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont or Washington D.C., your application for SSI includes the state supplement.
  • Some other states also administer supplemental payments. There you must apply for the supplement at the appropriate state agency, according to the Social Security Administration.
  • Contact the state agency or the SSA at 800-772-1213 to inquire about how to apply for the supplement if you currently are not receiving it.

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