SSI eligibility

SSI Eligibility Facts: How to Get Supplemental Security Income

Navigating Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility can be tricky — especially with so many disability types and limitations to read through. Since the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses internal lingo and definitions for disabilities, just completing the application can be challenging. But once you understand a few basic SSI eligibility facts, it is totally possible to navigate the application process with ease, getting you on the road to appeals-free benefits. Here are three things you need to know about SSI eligibility.

How Is SSI Eligibility Determined, and Who Automatically Qualifies for Benefits?

There are two parts to SSI eligibility. The simple answer is that to qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits, you must fall under one or more of the following categories:

  • Currently age 65 or older
  • Blind
  • Disabled

If none of these three qualities applies to you, then you aren’t eligible for SSI benefits. But these are the most basic qualifications the SSA considers in determining an applicant’s SSI eligibility. In order to get benefits, you must meet one of the above qualifications and:

  • Have limited income
  • Not leave the US for more than 30 days at a time
  • Have access to limited resources
  • Not live in a prison or institutional facility paid for with government funding
  • Be a U.S. citizen or national, or belong in one of certain alien resident categories. (Generally, any alien with an active warrant for deportation cannot meet the citizenship/alien requirement for SSI benefits.)
  • Reside within one of the 50 U.S. states, the Northern Mariana Islands, or the District of Columbia
  • Not apply for other cash benefits or payments for which you may also qualify (i.e. pensions, worker’s compensation, etc.)

Of course, there are exceptions to some of these qualifications. In general, though, meeting the majority of these requirements is how the SSA will determine your SSI eligibility for benefits.

What Does “Limited Income and/or Resources” Mean for Determining SSI Eligibility?

When you apply for SSI benefits, the SSA asks you to list all your income sources. These include paychecks, pensions, Social Security benefits, workers’ compensation and unemployment as well as money received from friends or relatives. Currently, the upper monthly income threshold is $1,350 for non-blind applicants. Resources include assets that you own outright, or things you could potentially sell in order to have enough money to live on. SSA-defined resources include cash, bank accounts, stocks, land, vehicles, boats, personal property, investments, life insurance, etc. If the SSA believes your total resources are over the allowable value limit, you cannot receive SSI benefits that month. If you choose to sell any excess resources, you can start getting SSI benefits one month after completing that sale.

What’s the Definition of “Disabled,” According to the SSA?

The SSA considers applicants aged 18 or older with a “medically determinable physical or mental impairment (including an emotional or learning problem)” to be disabled. In addition, this disability must prevent you from performing any substantial gainful activity (SGA) and either:

  • Should result in your death, or
  • Already lasted (or will last) for a minimum of 12 consecutive months

If you’ve been diagnosed with a condition on The Compassionate Allowances (CAL) list, however, you may automatically qualify as disabled. The CAL process helps more obviously disabled individuals “skip the line” and get approved immediately for SSI benefits. If you think your condition may fast-track your SSI eligibility determination, view the full CAL list here.

Still have questions about disability benefits, or need help with your application? Sign up for a free phone call from the closest Social Security attorney available to help you today. All disability lawyers work on contingency. That means if one can’t get your disability claim approved, then you pay $0 for legal assistance. And if you do win benefits, then you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.

Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!

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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity,, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.