How do I apply for and get SSI?

SSI, which stands for “Supplemental Security Income,” is administered by Social Security.

It is a needs based program for those who are disabled or over the age of 65, have limited assets and have income below the SSI level, which is currently $880 per month in California. (Each state’s SSI level is different because some states, like California, provide a state supplement to the federal benefit which is only around $600 per month.)

In order to obtain SSI, the applicant must have no more than $2,000 of “countable” resources.  SSI will not count a home, a car, furniture and furnishings, clothing, a burial plot, tools of a trade, or certain other assets.  However, cash, stocks, bonds, cash surrender value of life insurance, and other assets that could be turned into case, will be counted.

Assuming a person over 65 meets the asset test and has income under the SSI level, he or she need only go to a local Social Security office and apply for benefits.  Upon verifying the assets and income, the SSI will be granted.

If a person is under 65, he or she must also meet the test of disability, which is defined as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful employment which exists in the national economy in significant numbers.  If the person can make change at a self-service gas station, or sort nuts and bolts on a conveyor belt, then the person is not “disabled” for SSI purposes.

Whether over or under 65, once a person qualifies for SSI, he or she automatically qualifies for Medi-Cal (Medicaide in other states.)  This is called “linked” Medi-Cal, because it is linked with the SSI benefits and is administered through the Social Security office.  Non-linked community based Medi-Cal, for those who are not receiving SSI benefits, is administered by the county social services office.

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