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    Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

    Frequently Asked Questions

    This is the amount that a state may add to the national Federal Benefit Rate (FBR). California's State Supplemental Payment is $160.72. Combined with the Federal Benefit Rate of $794, this allows an individual a total benefit of $954.72. The FBR for a couple is $1,191, while the SSP for a couple is $407.14. The maximum benefit for a couple is $1,598.14.

    Some states that provide a State Supplement Payment, including California, have arranged with Social Security to combine their supplemental payments with the federal payment. There are other states that provide State Supplemental Payments and manage their own programs. These states may require an additional application.

    Supplemental Security Income provides income through the Social Security Administration (SSA) for those who meet Social Security's rules for disability. Supplemental Security Income provides a minimum monthly income for individuals who have limited income and resources.

    Supplemental Security Income is also known as Title XVI or Title 16 of the Social Security Act and by the acronym SSI. Many mistakenly refer to this program as Social Security Income and confuse it with the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.

    Supplemental Security Income is funded from general tax revenues of the federal government.

    You may be eligible if you are over age 65, blind, or otherwise disabled and have met assets requirements, are a US Citizen (or meet the requirements for noncitizens), and your total countable income is below Supplemental Security Income levels. To be eligible for Supplemental Security Income, you must be considered medically disabled according to the Social Security's definition of disability.

    No. The amount of SSI varies from state to state. Each state determines if it will supplement the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) provided by Social Security. The state of California provides a State Supplemental Payment (SSP). These amounts may be adjusted annually to account for cost of living changes.

    Medi-Cal (Medicaid) health coverage automatically comes with Supplemental Security Income payments in California. California is one of 32 states that provide health coverage automatically.

    The Supplemental Security Income benefit is based on the amount of income you receive, your living arrangements, and the state you live in. The benefit amount in California comes from two sources: the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) and State Supplement Payment (SSP). These amounts are adjusted annually to account for cost of living changes. Some examples of current SSI benefit amounts in California are:

    • $954.72 monthly for an individual
    • $1,598.14 monthly for a couple

    You will continue to receive SSI as long as you are disabled and meet work or other eligibility requirements. Your Supplemental Security Income eligibility will be periodically reviewed to determine if there has been any medical improvement in your condition and/or to determine whether you continue to be eligible for benefits. There are two kinds of reviews: a medical Continuing Disability Review (CDR) and a work Continuing Disability Review (CDR).

    A medical CDR occurs according to a schedule set when you were awarded benefits.

    A work CDR occurs when Social Security receives earnings reports to see if work activity is affecting your benefits.

    If Social Security ends your disability benefits due to medical improvement--but you are participating in an approved vocational rehabilitation program and continue to meet income and resource requirements--your disability benefits may be continued for the duration of the program

    To be considered medically disabled according to Social Security rules, an individual must be unable to engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) due to any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. In addition to being unable to perform his or her previous work, the person cannot--considering age, education, and work experience--engage in any other kind of SGA that exists in the national economy (1967 Amendments). See the SSI Program Description for more details.

    Substantial Gainful Activity can be measured in two ways:

    1. Total actual monthly wages (dollars). Any work that generates gross (before taxes) earned income that is equal to or greater than $1,310 (SGA) as of 2021 ($2,190 for blind beneficiaries).
    2. Substantial Gainful Activity can be the dollar value the Social Security Administration (SSA) places on work activity even if wages are not paid. If SSA considers the value of the work to be $1,310 or more, the work is considered Substantial Gainful Activity as of 2021 ($2,190 for blind beneficiaries).

    See the Social Security Administration's Work site for more details on Substantial Gainful Activity.

    Yes. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program has limits on resources and what you own.

    You are allowed to have liquid assets (accessible money) up to $2,000 ($3,000 for a couple).

    Ownership of one house, occupied by you, and one car will not be considered when determining your resource levels for this program.

    Liquid assets may also include:

    • checking and savings accounts;
    • the value of stocks, bonds, and trust deeds;
    • additional cars or recreational vehicles; and
    • promissory notes and loans that are payable to you.

    Yes. You must be a legal United States and California resident. The Social Security Administration provides an explanation of the rules.

    Another source of information for immigrants and Social Security is the People's Guide.

    You need to take the lead when applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). It is your responsibility to inform your medical provider(s) that you are applying for a disability benefit such as Supplemental Security Income. Ask your medical provider to clearly document all medical findings that will support your claim. You are responsible to report any symptoms to your doctor, even if they seem insignificant. By reporting to your medical provider(s), you build a health care team that can help support a disability claim. Deciding when to apply for disability benefits can be an important part of what you and your doctor discuss. Most people, providers included, do not realize that the date the application process begins, for a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim, can affect when benefits will start.

    To expedite the process, gather the following information:

    • Social Security number and proof of age, such as a certified copy of a birth certificate (including your spouse and children if they are also applying for benefits);
    • Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of doctors, hospitals, clinics, and institutions that treated you and the dates of those treatments;
    • Names of all medications you are taking and the prescribed dosage(s);
    • Medical records from your doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics, and caseworkers;
    • Lab tests and their results;
    • A summary of where you've worked during the past 15 years and the kind of work you did. A resume can provide some of this information;
    • A copy of your most recent W2 Form or, if you are self- employed, your federal tax return for the past year;
    • Marriage and dependents information, and/or dates of any prior marriages;
    • Proof of application to any other public benefit such as State Disability Insurance (SDI) or Worker’s Compensation;
    • Information about the home you live in, such as mortgage or lease and landlord’s name; and
    • Payroll slips, bank books, insurance policies, car registration, burial fund records, and other information about your income and resources

    Be patient with yourself and the process. If you have this information readily available, it will make filing your claim easier.

    Start the process by contacting Social Security by telephone or visiting your local office to schedule an appointment. This is a crucial step in the SSI application process because this establishes the onset date of disability. You can also start your application for SSI online.

    Processing the SSI claim should take between 1-6 months if all required documentation is provided. When a claim is denied by Social Security and an appeal is filed, the SSI claim process can take longer.

    To contact the Social Security Administration (SSA), call (voice) 1-800-772-1213 or (TTY) 1-800-325-0778 or visit your local Social Security office.

    There is no waiting period for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Benefits start at the date the application process began with Social Security or the date the disability began, whichever is later. Processing the SSI claim should take between 1-6 months if all required documentation is provided. When a claim is denied by Social Security and an appeal is filed, the SSI claim process can take longer.

    The Supplemental Security Income program is funded by taxes from the general fund. This program is based on individual financial need and is designed to assist those who have limited income and resources. Social Security Disability Insurance is paid for by FICA deductions from wages. This is a social insurance program that pays benefits based on contributions made by a wage earner.

    Many additional benefits programs may be available to you depending on your work history and the benefits an employer has provided. They may include California State Disability Insurance (SDI) and privately sponsored short-term disability and long-term disability programs. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) may be available depending on a wage earner’s work history. If you are eligible for SSDI, you may also be eligible for health coverage such as Medicare after waiting periods have been satisfied. When eligible for SSI in California you will be automatically enrolled in SSI-Linked Medi-Cal. Some individuals may have access to private health coverage or continuation of private health coverage (COBRA, OBRA or Cal-COBRA).

    Yes. You could be eligible for State Disability Insurance (SDI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) while you are receiving Supplemental Security Income if you meet eligibility rules and your total countable income does not exceed $954.72 for an individual, or $1,598.14 for a couple.

    Social Security work incentives, as well as the Ticket to Work program, may support your efforts to re-enter the workforce. Since SSI is designed to supplement your income, Social Security uses the countable income calculation to determine how much your wages will reduce your benefit.

    Underreporting earnings to Social Security may result in overpayments where you will be responsible to pay back those benefits. Make sure to report all of your gross income. Gross income is the amount you are paid before taxes are deducted from your paycheck. If you are self-employed, you can report earnings based on your most recent IRS tax return. To avoid an overpayment, report earnings to the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (voice) or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY).

    Not necessarily. There are many Social Security employment rules and work incentives that allow you to keep Medi-Cal (Medicaid) even if you no longer continue to receive a SSI benefit. You may be able to continue Medi-Cal (Medicaid) coverage at no cost through SSI's 1619(b) provisions. The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides these details on Medi-Cal (Medicaid) protection.

    You will be eligible for 1619(b) if:

    • You have received an SSI benefit payment in the past twelve months;
    • You continue to meet medical disability requirements;
    • You continue to meet non-disability requirements;
    • You need Medicaid health coverage to continue to work; and
    • Your wages are below the 1619(b) threshold amount of $47,395 annually (as of 2021 in California).

    Note: The 1619(b) threshold amount is $48,752 for blind recipients (as of 2021 in California).

    If your income exceeds the 1619(b) threshold, you may still be able to keep Medi-Cal coverage. You can request that Social Security continue your 1619(b) Medi-Cal by requesting an individual income threshold. If your income increases due to wages from employment, you may want to consider Medi-Cal's Working Disabled Program.

    Impairment Related Work Expenses are documented expenses for services or items related to one's impairment that you pay for in order to support work activities. Wheelchair repairs, out of pocket payments for prescription medication or medical services, or a computer screen reader are examples of IRWEs.

    • IRWEs must be verified with original receipts or canceled checks.
    • IRWEs are approved at the local Social Security field office on a case-by-case basis.
    • There is no fixed list of approved IRWEs.

    Yes. You can request Expedited Reinstatement and have your benefits restarted for up to 6 months if:

    Social Security will review your disability status during those 6 months. If they decide that you are disabled during that review, you will continue to get Social Security benefits after those 6 months are up.

    Yes. The Plan to Achieve Self-Support Program (PASS) allows certain people with disabilities to set aside earned income or unearned income. Social Security will exempt this income when it is placed into an approved PASS plan and used towards a vocational goal, such as college or a training school. PASS is a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. You must meet SSI financial rules to use the program. A detailed application is required. PASS can be a valuable tool for competitive employment.

    Yes. If an SSI recipient is under age 22, not the head of a household, unmarried, and attending school regularly, he or she is allowed to exclude up to $1,930 of earned income per month. The maximum annual student earned income exclusion is $7,770 (as of January 2021).

    When Social Security awards disability benefits, they schedule a review depending on the severity of your disabling condition(s) and on when you may medically improve.

    • If medical improvement is expected soon, Social Security will review your claim within the first three years;
    • If medical improvement is considered possible, Social Security will review your claim at least once every three years;
    • If medical improvement is not expected, Social Security will review your claim every five to seven years.

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