Supplemental Security Income Eligibility Requirements

Supplemental security income is a federal government program that provides stipends to low-income individuals who are either elderly, blind or otherwise disabled. The program is administered by Social Security Administration and funded through the U.S. Treasury general funds. Supplemental security income program was created in 1974 to streamline and consolidate several state and federal programs that provided those benefits up to that point. The program assumes that the individuals who receive those benefits either cannot work or don't earn enough to make ends meet. In order to qualify for supplemental security income benefits, applicants must meet the following eligibility requirements.

Basic Requirements

First and foremost, anyone who applies for supplemental security income benefits must fall in at least one of the following categories:

  • Aged--this category includes anyone who is 65 or older
  • Blind--contrary to popular assumption, this category is not limited to applicants who have no vision whatsoever. Rather, applicants must be legally blind. This means that they must have visual acuity of no more than 20/200 in their better-seeing eye. The only exception to this rule is applicants whose visual field is limited to no more than 20 degrees.
  • Disabled--this category includes applicants with medically confirmed physical and/or mental impairments that severely limit their daily functions. For adults, those impairments must be severe enough to prevent them from being able to work in any way. In both cases, the impairments must be long-term, which, in this case, means that they are expected to last for at least 12 months in a row.

Income Requirements

In order to be eligible for supplemental security income benefits, the applicant's income cannot exceed certain limits. Those limits vary depending on the state, the number of people in the applicant's household, what type of income the applicant earns and whether or not the applicant gets any income from other state and/or federal welfare programs. The income limits are occasionally adjusted to account for changing economic conditions, so applicants should check those figures at least once a year. If they are not eligible this year, they may become eligible in the future.

Resource Requirements

Resources include cash and investments, as well as land, vehicles, personal property, life insurance policies and anything else the applicant can convert into cash in order to cover day-to-day expenses. In order to be eligible for supplemental security income benefits, the total value of resources must not exceed $2,000 for individual applicants and $3,000 for married couples. Unlike income requirements, resource requirements will remain the same unless Congress decides to change them.

Residency Requirements

To be eligible for supplemental security income benefits, the applicant must permanently reside in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia or Northern Marina Islands. The residency requirements are waived for children whose parents are members of the military who are stationed abroad and students who are studying outside United States.

The applicant must be either a U.S. citizen or a qualified resident alien. A qualified resident alien is an immigrant who is either a permanent resident or a visa holder, a refugee or an asylum seeker who is entitled to Social Security benefits under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Immigrants who are recognized as victims of human trafficking under Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 may also qualify under certain circumstances. Finally, the applicants are eligible if they are non-citizen members of one of the federally recognized Indian tribes.