Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federally funded program that's administered by Social Security. It's designed to supplement the income of those with very limited incomes and assets. Tennessee residents, like all legal residents of the United States, are eligible to apply for SSI. If approved for SSI, you're also eligible for other programs, including TennCare, Tennessee's Medicaid program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Health and Age
To qualify for SSI in Tennessee and elsewhere, you need to have a low income, limited assets and belong to at least one of three groups: the elderly (defined by Social Security as those 65 and older), blind or disabled. Blindness is defined by Social Security as having 20/200 visibility with corrective lenses or if you have a visual field limitation in your eye. Qualifying for disability-based SSI is defined by an inability to do substantial gainful activity. Your condition must also be expected to last at least one year or result in death.
Income and Resources
Social Security also looks at your income and assets. Your income includes any money you earn from working and any other benefits you receive, like Social Security disability, and any free food or shelter you're provided with. Social Security also examines your resources, or assets. Assets include cash, savings, vehicles, property and life insurance. The maximum amount of resources you can have as a single person is $2,000 and the maximum for a couple is $3,000. Your home, one vehicle, household goods, life insurance valued at less than $1,500, burial plots and burial funds up to $1,500 are all excluded from being counted as assets.
To apply, call Social Security and make an appointment with your local Social Security office. There are 27 offices located throughout Tennessee. In addition to completing an application, you also need to give Social Security permission to access your financial information to verify your application. When you go to the Social Security office, you need to bring proof of age, proof of citizenship or proof that you are a legal resident alien, proof of income, proof of resources, proof of living arrangements, medical history (if you're applying due to disability) and work history. Social Security requires original documents or certified copies.
Supplemental Security Income benefits are paid on a monthly basis, and usually increase each year. As of June 2011, the SSI monthly benefit amount is $674 for an individual and $1,011 for a couple. Tennessee is one of six states that do not provide a monthly supplement to SSI recipients.