Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal income program administered through the U.S. Social Security Administration. SSI is a needs-based program created to assist people aged 65 and over, as well as those who are blind or disabled, who are living on an extremely limited income.
SSI is distinct from Social Security, which is based on the number of years worked and amount of tax paid. SSI is also different from the similar-sounding SSDI (Social Security Disability Income), which is a payroll tax-funded, federal insurance program designed to assist people who are unable to work due to a disability. SSI functions independent of your employment history. Even if you have never paid into Social Security, if your income is below a certain threshold and you’re 65 or older, you can receive SSI benefits.
To be eligible for SSI, an individual’s total assets cannot exceed $2000 (or $3000 for a couple). Resources you are permitted to own and remain eligible include real estate, bank accounts, stocks and bonds. In addition, when making its resource determination SSI does not count the home you live in, life insurance policies with a face value of $1500 or less, your car (in most cases) or burial plots for you and members of your immediate family.
SSI benefits are paid monthly and can be used as the recipient chooses: for food, clothing, shelter and other necessities. This online benefit eligibility screening tool can help you determine whether you qualify for SSI. The tool will also let you know whether you’re eligible for Medicare, SSDI, Veterans benefits and several other federal income programs.
Seniors may choose to use their SSI benefit to help cover the costs of senior housing, either as partial rent payment for independent living or in a facility. Some personal care homes and assisted living facilities will work out payment arrangements with individuals in need of care. These arrangements typically involve accepting the person’s SSI income as full payment, while the facility provides necessary care and services.
However, not all senior living facilities offer this as an option. And while these cash benefits can be used to cover a variety of living expenses, Medicaid is often a better option for seniors with limited incomes to pay for nursing home care.
Whether or not you qualify for SSI, you may also want to explore other potential sources of senior living funding, including Long-term Care Insurance (LTCI), Veteran’s Aid and Attendance Benefits, PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) and Life Settlements. Depending on your health status and where you currently live, one or more of these programs may be a financial option for you in your later years.
Because finances and health care are critical issues for seniors and their loved ones, it’s essential to become familiar with all the potential resources available for your needs, which may change over time. To support you in making the best decisions possible, please review this comprehensive guide to paying for health care and senior living.