Social security

What kind of social security is SSI?

Find out what makes Supplemental Security Income (SSI) different from other Social Security-managed federal financial assistance programs.

3 min read

The Social Security Administration runs various financial assistance programs for specific categories of people. One of these programs is the Supplemental Security Income, which has different requirements and benefits from the regular Social Security benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based federal benefits program that provides monthly payments to older adults above age 65 or people living with physical or mental disabilities. The monthly payments can be used to pay for food, clothing, rent, mortgage payments, utility bills, home repairs, and other living expenses. SSI is a separate benefits program from Social Security Disability Insurance.

Who is eligible for SSI benefits?

The basic criteria to be eligible for SSI payments is that you must be a citizen or lawful resident of the United States. You must have a residency in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands. 

If you are 65 years or older, you may qualify for SSI financial assistance if you have limited income and resources. Also, if you are 18 through 64 years, you may qualify to receive SSI payments based on a disability or blindness. In special cases, children below 18 may earn SSI eligibility if they have a disability that must result in severe limitation; it must have lasted or is expected to last longer than 12 months or is expected to cause death.

Eligible applicants must have limited income and few resources. The countable assets must not exceed $2,000 for an individual, or $3,000 for a couple. The SSI benefits can be used to pay for food, utilities, clothing, housing, and other living expenses.

What does limited income mean?

The SSA defines limited income as countable income such as your wages and Social Security benefits. Typically, the countable income should not exceed the SSI payment applicable to your living arrangement. Examples of non-countable incomes include loan proceeds, tax refunds, food stamps, home energy assistance, etc.

The Federal Benefits Rate (FBR) sets the income limits for SSI eligibility. For 2022, individuals can receive monthly SSI payments of $841, or $1,261 for a couple. If the income comes from wages, the income limit for individuals is $1,767 or $2,607 for couples. To be eligible for benefits, an individual or couple’s combined income should not exceed the monthly SSI payments.

What does limited resources mean?

Similar to the income limits, there are strict rules on the resources that an SSI recipient has, and only countable resources affect eligibility for the need-based SSI benefits. The SSA requires that the value of countable resources should not be more than $2,000 for individuals, or $3,000 for couples.

Resources may include cash, other liquid assets as well as personal and real properties that a person owns, and that could be converted to cash to meet their needs. Assets like buildings, land, cars, household goods, jewelry, and life insurance policies are considered countable resources.

However, certain resources are excluded when determining the value of resources that a person owns. Examples of non-countable resources include the principal residence where the recipient lives, one car regardless of value, all contiguous land, personal good, burial funds, burial plot, life insurance policies up to $1,500 in value, and up to $100,000 in an ABLE account.


Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are federal assistance programs that are managed by the SSA. While both programs serve similar populations, they have different requirements, sources of funding, and benefits.


SSI pays benefits to people based on their disability, age, blindness, and income level. Eligible beneficiaries must have limited incomes and few assets.

In comparison, SSDI benefits are available to people with a physical or mental impairment that prevents them from gainful activity; the disability must be expected to last 12 months or more, or result in death.

How to qualify

SSI is not tied to work history, and you can qualify for benefits even if you have never worked in a covered job or paid Social Security taxes. However, your countable income and resources should not exceed the SSA limits. For 2022, the resource limit is $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for married couples.

On the other hand, SSDI is an earned benefit, and you must have worked in a covered job to qualify for Social Security benefits. Typically, the credits you need to qualify for these benefits depend on your age when you became disabled. SSDI may also pay benefits to spouses and children of eligible beneficiaries.

Source of funding

Although SSI is run by the SSA, it is not funded by payroll taxes under FICA and SECA. Rather, these benefits are funded from the general revenues of the US Treasury. States may also offer supplemental benefits

In comparison, SSDI benefits are paid out of the SSA’s Disability Insurance Trust Fund, one of the two trust funds where Social Security taxes are deposited. The monthly SSI payments depend on your earnings history.

Benefit amount

Both SSI and SSDI pay different monthly benefits. For 2022, the average monthly SSI benefit is $624, whereas the average monthly SSDI benefit is about $1,223. However, the maximum monthly SSI benefits can be as high as $841 for individuals, or $1,261 for couples, while the maximum monthly benefit for SSDI benefits can go up to $3,345 in 2022.