What is Supplemental Security Income, or SSI?

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides monthly cash assistance to people who are 65 and older or blind or disabled. 

Administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), for 38% of adults 65 and older who receive benefits, SSI is their only source of income.1 

Who is eligible for SSI?

You may qualify for SSI assistance if you:

  • Are at least age 65 or blind or disabled
  • Have limited income from a pension, wages, or other sources
  • Have limited resources (items you own)
  • Are a U.S. citizen or national or noncitizen who meets certain criteria
  • Live in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands

How does SSI work for older adults?

If you are 65 or older and are not disabled or blind, your eligibility for SSI benefits is determined by how much money you have coming in and the value of other resources you may have.

To be considered for SSI to begin with, your income must fall below a monthly maximum before this calculation is done. The more income you have, the lower your SSI benefit will be.

Monthly maximum income to receive SSI benefits:

  • $1,971 for individuals whose income is only from wages
  • $963 for individuals whose income is not from wages
  • $2,915 for couples whose income is only from wages
  • $ 1,435 for couples whose income is not from wages

The reason that your income can be higher if you have earned income (wages) is that SSA disregards (doesn’t count) some earned income.

Resources are assets—things like life insurance, cash, vehicles, stocks, and U.S. savings bonds. Individuals can have up to $2,000 in resources, and couples can have up to $3,000. But not all resources and income sources count when calculating your potential SSI benefit amount. For example, the home you live in (and the land it is on), a car, and things like your household goods and wedding ring don't count.

If you're wondering if you're eligible, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has an SSI tool that can help you get started in applying. It only takes 5-10 minutes, and while walking through the process, the tool will document your intent to file an application and establish a protective filing date. This protective filing date will determine when your payments will begin if your application is approved.

It's important to note that using the SSI tool is not an application for SSI benefits. You must file an application with SSA to receive a formal determination of eligibility. Once you submit the information, SSA will schedule an appointment to file the application.

How much SSI assistance can I get?

The following are maximum SSI benefit amounts:

  • For an eligible person: $943 
  • For an eligible couple: $1,415 

But not everyone who is eligible will receive those exact benefit amounts. SSI payments vary from person to person. For example, you might receive more than $914 if you live in a state that provides additional monthly financial assistance. Or your payment could be lower, depending on how much countable income you have, and other factors.

How do I apply for SSI?

You must apply for SSI through Social Security. You can get started by answering a set of questions online. That should take between 5-10 minutes.

After you complete the online form, you will receive a letter 7-14 days later giving you the date and time of an appointment at your local Social Security office. During that appointment, an SSA representative will help you apply for benefits.

If you’d rather not start the SSI application process online, you can call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to make an appointment at the Social Security office near you.

Am I eligible for other financial assistance programs?

If you qualify for SSI, you usually can get benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid. 

If you are looking other types of help, you can also use the website you're on right now. We'll help you learn more about SSI and other programs that can help you pay for food, medicine, and more. Start by clicking here and then enter your ZIP code in the box on the left.


1. Policy Basics: Supplemental Security Income. Aug. 12, 2022. Found on the internet at https://www.cbpp.org/research/social-security/supplemental-security-income