Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
How It Works
Caring for a child with a disability imposes significant financial burdens to families, including direct costs like healthcare expenses and indirect costs like missed wages. For families with members who are CSHCN, SSI is a federal program to provide cash assistance to help beet basic needs. To be eligible for SSI, children must meet specific income eligibility requirements and the definition of disability.
Income eligibility for SSI for family of four (consisting of two parents, one child without SSI, and a disabled child) is roughly less then $44,000. There is also an asset testing criteria, requiring less then $2000 of assets. As a point of comparison, eligibility for Medicaid for a family of 4 would require income roughly less then $26,000.
The criteria for â€œdisabledâ€ is a child that has a physical or mental condition that can be medically proven and which results in marked and severe functional limitations and must have lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months or end in death.
SSI is administered by the Social Security Administration. However, SSI is financed through general federal funds (income taxes, corporation taxes, etc.) not through Social Security taxes. Some states supplement the federal benefit, some do not, and some States self administer their SSI programs. To find out what your State does, click [here][state ssi programs].
In February 2007 approximately one million children were receiving SSI payments that averaged $550 per month. In most states, SSI is linked to Medicaid eligibility so children receiving SSI automatically qualify for Medicaid. The income eligibility requirements for SSI are generally more liberal than those for Medicaid. Therefore, SSI provides disabled children access to the health care services they might otherwise not be able to afford. However, children with disabilities may lose their SSI with changes in their family”s assets or income and then lose health insurance from Medicaid as well, unless they qualify and apply for Medicaid through another eligibility path.
To receive SSI benefits, an individual or parent must file an application. The application process can be initiated by calling Social Security. Required documents can be found online. In the case that an individual does not agree with the determination of their SSI benefits, an appeal can be filed. SSI beneficiaries receive SSI benefits on the first of every month.
Signed into law by President Nixon in 1972, the Supplemental Security Income program replaced a patchwork of state programs for the aged, blind, and disabled.
Advocates including The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) have proposed potential improvements to SSI, including increasing the asset limits and income exclusions for SSI and indexing SSI for inflation. While there is some congressional support, activity is limited by pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rules.
- Social Security Admnistration SSI Site
- Social Security Admnistrations Monthly Statistical Snapshot
- HRSA, Understanding Title V of the Social Security Act
- Social Security Online. Understanding Supplemental Security Income: 2006 Edition. Available at: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi/text-understanding-ssi.htm. Accessed on February 14, 2007.
[state ssi programs]: