Social security

What’s social security supplemental income?

Learn more about what is Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and how it compares to Social Security benefits.

3 min read

The Social Security Administration (SSA) runs some of the most extensive safety net programs to help retired workers, survivors of deceased workers, and individuals who are physically or mentally challenged. One of these programs is the Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which provides monthly benefits to people with low income and few resources.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a safety net program that pays monthly benefits to retired workers and people with disabilities with limited income and resources. For 2022, the Federal Benefit Rate set the monthly SSI payments to $841 for individuals and $1,261 for couples. Additionally, most states provide supplemental benefits to eligible beneficiaries.

What is Social Security Supplemental Income?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a safety net program that is administered by the SSA. It pays monthly benefits to people with low income who cannot afford their basic needs due to old age or disability. You must be age 65+, blind, or have a long-term disability to qualify for SSI benefits.

Although the SSA is responsible for managing SSI, the funding for the benefits program does not come from Social Security taxes. Instead, SSI is funded primarily through the US Treasury general revenues, mainly from personal income taxes, corporate taxes, and other taxes. Social Security taxes collected through FICA and SECA do not finance the SSI program.

Some states may also supplement the SSI benefits with additional payments to eligible workers. The amount that an individual receives from the SSI benefit and state supplemental payments depends on their income, resources, and other factors. However, you will receive reduced benefits if you have other incomes such as Social Security benefits, wages, and pensions.

Who qualifies for social security supplemental income?

There are specific requirements that individuals must meet to be eligible to receive SSI benefits. Qualified beneficiaries must be age 65+, blind, or have a physical or mental disability. Additionally, the individuals must have limited income and limited resources. Beneficiaries must be US citizens or nationals with residency in one of the 50 states, District of Columbia, or US territories.  

The SSA has a list of earnings and payments that it considers countable income for the purpose of SSI eligibility. Similarly, SSA has a list of assets that are considered countable resources. To be eligible for SSI benefits, the countable assets should not exceed $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for a couple. The countable assets comprise financial assets that can be converted to cash such as stocks, bonds, or real estate, but excludes assets such as your household goods, your principal residence, or the car you use for daily transportation.

How to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

When applying for SSI benefits, you should be prepared to provide certain documents. Some of the documents you may be required to provide include Social Security number, proof of citizenship or alien status, proof of income, proof of resources, work history, living arrangements, and your medical history if you are applying for SSI on the basis of blindness or disability.

The following are the main ways of applying for SSI benefits:

Apply by phone

You can apply for SSI benefits by calling Social Security at 800-772-1213 to book an appointment. A Social Security rep will schedule an appointment for you to apply for the benefits, and they will send you the appointment date via registered mail or email.

Social Security website

You can also log in to your My Social Security account and file your application electronically. Completing the online application can be a lengthy process, but the Social Security website allows you to save the filed form and complete filing the application later. You can also print the application form from your My Social Security account, fill it out, and mail it to the Social Security address.

Local Social Security office

You can visit the nearest Social Security office to apply for SSI benefits. Local offices are busy most of the time, and the SSA recommends scheduling an appointment to avoid long queues.

Income Limits for Social Security Supplemental Income

SSA sets limits on how much SSI beneficiaries can earn and how much they can have in assets. If the income or assets exceed the SSA limit, the SSI benefits will be reduced or eliminated. In some cases, the SSA considers the incomes of people living in the same house as the SSI beneficiary when determining the beneficiary’s countable income.

The SSA sets both income and resource limits that SSI beneficiaries cannot exceed. As of 2022, an SSI beneficiary cannot earn more than $1,767 per month or exceed $2,000 in asset value. If you are a couple, the combined income cannot exceed $2,607 per month, while the asset value should not exceed $3000.

The asset value includes cash in bank accounts, investments, stocks, bonds, etc. but it does not include your home, one vehicle if it is used for transportation, household goods, personal goods, burial plots, and up to $100,000 in an ABLE account.

Social Security Benefits vs Supplemental Security Income

Social Security benefits and SSI are two of the most popular benefits that are managed by the IRS. Most people who are eligible for SSI may also qualify to receive Social Security benefits. However, these benefits vary in several ways.

Social Security benefits are based on your working and earnings history, and you will be eligible to receive these benefits if you worked in a job covered by Social Security. On the other hand, you will be eligible to receive SSI benefits if you have limited income and limited resources.

Social Security benefits are paid from the Social Security Trust Fund which is funded with taxes from FICA and SECA. In comparison, SSI benefits are not financed through Social Security taxes, but using funds from the US Treasury.