The federal Social Security Administration provides cash benefits to low-income Americans through the Supplemental Security Income. The government awards these benefits to blind, disabled or elderly citizens (aged 65 or older) unable to purchase basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter. SSA provides different maximum SSI amounts for couples and individuals receiving benefits. Some states, meanwhile, provide supplements to bolster monthly SSI benefits, though only under certain conditions.
SSI Benefits for Couples
In 2011, the maximum monthly SSI benefit amount for couples is $1011. This amount took effect in 2009. Generally, the maximum monthly amount of SSI benefits available changes annually, in accordance with the Consumer Price Index. Such a change is called a cost of living adjustment. The United States witnessed no change in the Consumer Price Index from 2009 to 2011. Because of this, the maximum amount of benefits remained unchanged for three years. This marks the only period of benefit amount stasis since the program’s inception in 1975.
Most American states and territories provide supplemental payments to certain SSI recipients. As of 2911, the federal government funds supplements in 14 states and Washington, DC. An additional 31 states fund their own supplements. Supplemental payments help couples and individuals meet living costs. Most states only provide supplements to SSI recipients living in adult care homes, though some states, such as California, provide supplements to all SSI recipients. Every state has different supplemental payment amounts, though in 2011 couples may receive more than $2000 depending on state of residence and living situation.
Five states — Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia — and the Northern Mariana Islands provide no supplemental payment to SSI recipients.
SSI and Other Benefits
Additional types of benefits help bolster the maximum benefits provided through SSI. Elderly Americans receiving SSI who are also eligible for standard Social Security benefits may receive both simultaneously, thus increasing the monthly government assistance payments an individual receives.
A total of 32 states and Washington, DC maintain the same eligibility requirements and application forms for SSI and Medicaid programs. Individuals applying for either automatically apply for both and, in cases of approval, receive both. Medicaid provides health insurance to low income Americans.
More on SSI Benefits
Some state supplemental SSI payments do not provide rates for couples. North Carolina, for example, treats both parties of a couple as individuals and provides separate payments to each, provided those individuals meet the requirement of living in an adult care home. Because the benefit rate for individuals equals more than half the rate for couples, couples filing as individuals actually receive more money than they would as a single entity. Only the most needy of SSI applicants receive the maximum amount of benefits. The SSA calculates each applicant’s payment amount on income, living arrangement and other factors such as assistance from local organizations.