Supplemental Security Income

Child with special needs playing on a playground.

Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is a federal income supplement program designed to help the aged, blind and people with disabilities, who have little or no income, by providing them with cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing and shelter.


Supplemental Security Income provides cash payments that may be used for the following:

  • Food
  • Medical or dental care not covered by health insurance
  • Home improvements
  • Furniture for the individual's personal use
  • Personal needs such as clothing and recreation
  • Down payment on a car and monthly car payments, as long as the car is used for and owned by the individual

In some states, SSI is the gateway for other federal programs such as Medicaid, Medicare premiums and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The basic SSI payment will be the same nationwide, but some states supplement it for certain recipients; visit SSI State Supplements to learn more.


Eligibility for SSI is determined by several factors such as income, medical conditions, and the applicant's location. Generally, SSI pays benefits to adults or children with disabilities who meet the following requirements:

  • Maximum income: Your income and other financial resources cannot exceed the limits set for your state; however, not all financial resources count. For military families, combat pay, hostile fire pay and imminent danger pay don't count. Local Social Security offices can provide information about your state's income limit and exclusions.
  • Severe physical or mental impairment for children with disabilities: There must be medical evidence of a severe physical or mental impairment that limits the child's ability to function for a continuous period of at least 12 months. Visit Supplemental Security Income Benefits to learn more about qualifying conditions and state evaluations.
  • Medical review for adults with disabilities: A child who receives SSI will be evaluated when he or she turns 18, when individuals are expected to contribute to their income unless they reside with and are dependent upon their parents. Parents will submit a Representative Payee Program Form annually to account for the monetary benefits received, as SSI may be subject to federal taxes.
  • Live in the United States or in overseas locations with a military parent: Children under 18 may continue to receive SSI benefits while overseas if they are U.S. citizens and living with a parent who is a member of the U.S. military stationed overseas. Special Rules for Children of Military Personnel Living Overseas gives more information.

You can find out if your family member is eligible for SSI by completing the SSA's Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool. Start the application process by visiting the Social Security Administration to learn everything you need to know about applying.


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