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Supplemental Security Income eligibility

Supplemental Security Income is an important financial assistance program for persons who have limited income and who suffer from blindness or disability. Understanding the difference between SSI criteria and ordinary Social Security criteria can help people qualify for SSI benefits.

The SSI program is run by the Social Security Administration. As its name implies, it provides supplemental income for persons who are financially distressed and who meet the other eligibility criteria. To collect SSI benefits, a person must be over the age or 65, be blind or be disabled. The person must also demonstrate limited income, limited assets and United States citizenship. The person must also reside in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia or the Northern Mariana Islands. The applicant must not have been absent from the United States for a full calendar month during the year before the application is filed.

The blindness and disability requirements are a bit more complex. To qualify as blind, an adult must have a visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye or have a visual field limitation in both eyes that subtends an arc of no greater than 20 degrees. For a person under the age of 18 to be considered the person must have a medically verifiable physical or mental impairment that causes marked and severe functional limitations. The condition must be expected to result in death or last for at least 12 months. The criteria for disability for adults are essentially the same as those for children, except that the condition must prevent the adult from performing substantial gainful activity. The income limitations are $2,000 for each individual child or adult or $3,000 per couple.

Many SSI claims are initially denied, but the system provides each applicant the right to appeal an adverse decision. An appeal can involve complicated questions of medicine or law and the assistance of an attorney experienced in Social Security law may be very helpful.

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