Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Basics

What is Supplemental Security Income

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides monthly payments to people with disabilities and older adults with little or no income or resources.


To be eligible for SSI, an individual must be disabled and poor. There is a “Resource Test” – measured only once each month and an “Income Test” – which includes ANY income received any time of the month.

SSI Resource Test

Coutable resources for SSI:

  • $2,000 for an eligible individual
  • $3,000 for an eligible couple

Thirty-seven of the fifty states in the U.S. typically give automatic eligibility for Medicaid except for the following 209(b) States that have MORE restrictive requirements:

  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Virginia

Additional requirements

Recipients must be U.S. citizens, lawful residents, or aliens who meet special requirements. The person cannot be a fugitive, felon, in prison, or parole violation. They cannot be outside the U.S. for more than a month unless they are a student conducting studies or a child of a parent in the military.

To gain eligibility, they must apply for all other benefits and accept appropriate treatment for drug or alcohol addiction.

SSI provides a monthly cash grant for food and shelter to the disabled, blind, or the AGED (those 65 years of age or older).

SSA’s Definition of Disability

“Disability” is defined as the inability to engage in any “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) due to any medically determinable physical or mental impairment, or combination of impairments, that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months or result in death.

  • SGA is $1,470/month for individuals in 2023
  • SGA is $2,460/month for a couple in 2023

SSA defines disability for a minor as a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments that cause marked and severe functional limitations and that can be expected to cause death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

Exempt Assets

A principal primary residence of any value, including land and related buildings on the land, may be mobile or fixed, on land or water. Includes equitable ownership when the trust owns the home, and the recipient pays the mortgage. (20 CFR §416.1212; POMS SI 01130.100)

One vehicle of any value is used for transportation, including but not limited to cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, snowmobiles, animal-drawn vehicles, and even animals. The vehicle used only for recreation is NOT exempt, e.g., a boat used on weekends (20 CFR §§416.1210(c); POMS SI 01130.200).

ABLE Accounts are exempt for up to $100,000 for SSI recipients.

ABLE is a tax-advantaged savings account that allows individuals with disabilities to save and invest money for disability-related expenses (called Qualified Disability Expenses, or QDEs) without losing eligibility for certain means-tested public benefits programs, such as Medicaid Supplemental Nutrition.

To utilize an ABLE account, an individual must be disabled before age 26( will change to 46 in January 2026) and can only fund up to $17,000 per year to one account. Some states have a payback to the state Medicaid Agency on death.

Learn more?

The SSI laws, regulations, and policy manual are as follows:

  • 42 USC §§1381–1383f
  • 20 CFR §§416.101–416.2227
  • SSA’s Program Operations Manual System (POMS)

The POMs are the primary source of information Social Security and its employees use to process claims. The public version of the POMs is identical to the version used by SSA employees:

Other Exempt Assets

Total of 40 SSI Resource Exclusions (POMS SI 01130.050) including:

  • Home replacement funds – proceeds of the sale of the home exempt for up to 3 months if used to buy another exempt home (POMS SI 01130.110)
  • Household items such as furniture, appliances, computers, tv, carpet, cookware, and dishes (20 CFR §§416.1210(b), 416.1216(a), POMS SI 01130.430)
  • Personal effects, including jewelry, pets, musical instruments, hobby materials, and items of cultural significance (20 CFR §§416.1210(b), 416.1216(b); POMS SI 01130.430)
  • Life insurance less than $1,500 – calculation depends on a variety of facts (20 CFR §416.1230; POMS SI 01130.300)
  • Grants, scholarships, and fellowships (for up to 9 months) (POMS SI 01130.455)
  • Burial funds and Burial Insurance, including contracts, trusts, and other burial arrangements, if irrevocable, any amount, if revocable up to $1500 (20 CFR §416.1230, 416.1231(b)(8), POMS SI 01130.410)
  • Burial spaces include plot, vaults, gravesite, urn, niche, and crypt. (20 CFR §416.1231(a), POMS SI 01130.400

SSDI and SSI are not the same?

People need clarification about what public benefits they receive for several reasons. The SSA administers SSI and SSDI and checks from the same place. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) administers and pays for Medicaid and Medicare.

SSI arrives on the first of every third of every month. The benefit amount in most states for 2023 is $914, which is the federal benefit rate(FBR). This rate is adjusted annually. The actual amount can vary as some states subsidize SSI.