Understanding Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Overview -- 2024 Edition



SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income.  Social Security administers this program.  We pay monthly benefits to people with limited income and resources who are blind, age 65 or older, or have a qualifying disability.  Children with disabilities or who are blind may also get SSI.


Many people who are eligible for SSI may also be entitled to Social Security benefits. In fact, the application for SSI is also an application for Social Security benefits. However, SSI and Social Security are different in many ways.

    small blue ballSocial Security benefits may be paid to you and certain members of your family if you are “insured”, meaning you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. Unlike Social Security benefits, SSI benefits are not based on your prior work or a family member's prior work.

    small blue ballSSI is financed by general funds of the U.S. Treasury--personal income taxes, corporate taxes, and other taxes. Social Security taxes collected under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) or the Self-Employment Contributions Act (SECA) do not fund the SSI program.

    small blue ballIn most States, SSI recipients can also get medical assistance (Medicaid) to pay for hospital stays, doctor bills, prescription drugs, and other health costs.

    small blue ballMany States also provide a supplemental payment to certain SSI recipients.

    small blue ballSSI recipients may also be eligible for food assistance. In some States, an application for SSI also serves as an application for food assistance.

    small blue ballSSI is paid on the first of the month.

    small blue ballTo get SSI, you must be at least 65 years old, blind, or have a disability, and have "limited" income and resources.

    small blue ballIn addition, to get SSI, you must also:

    • be either a U.S. citizen or national, or a noncitizen in one of the certain alien classifications granted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS);

    • reside in one of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands; and

    • not be absent from the U.S. for a full calendar month or 30 or more consecutive days.


    small blue ballBoth programs pay monthly benefits.

    small blue ballThe medical standards for disability are generally the same in both programs for individuals age 18 or older. For children from birth to the attainment of age 18 there is a separate definition of disability under SSI. The medical standard is based on the severity of your disability; financial need is not considered at this step in the eligibility process.

    small blue ballSSA administers both programs.

NOTEFor more information on Social Security benefits, see SOCIAL SECURITY ENTITLEMENT.

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