Benefits Programs


Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes):

    • It is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income; and
    • It provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.

Eligibility applies to anyone who is:

      • aged (age 65 or older);
      • blind; or
      • disabled.

And, who:

      • has limited income; and
      • has limited resources; and
      • is a U.S. citizen or national, or in one of certain categories of aliens; and
      • is a resident of one of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands; and
      • is not absent from the country for a full calendar month or for 30 consecutive days or more; and
      • applies for any other cash benefits or payments for which he or she may be eligible, (for example, pensions, Social Security benefits); and
      • gives SSA permission to contact any financial institution and request any financial records about you; and
      • files an application; and
      • meets certain other requirements.

Disabled for applicants under age 18 means generally a medically-determinable physical or mental impairment, (including an emotional or learning problem) which:

    • results marked and severe functional limitations; and
    • can be expected to result in death; or
    • has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

If you are age 18 or older, the adult definition of disability explained below applies

Disabled for applicants age 18 or older generally means a medically-determinable physical or mental impairment (including an emotional or learning problem) which:

    • results in the inability to do any substantial gainful activity; and
    • can be expected to result in death; or
    • has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

For more specific information, go the SSA’s Site on SSI Eligibility.


To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must first have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. Then you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability. In general, SSDI pays monthly cash benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability.

Benefits usually continue until you are able to work again on a regular basis. There are also a number of special rules, called “work incentives,” that provide continued benefits and health care coverage to help you make the transition back to work.

The definition of disability under Social Security is different than other programs. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or for short-term disability. “Disability” under Social Security is based on inability to work. You are disabled under Social Security rules if:

      • You cannot do work that you did before;
      • We decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
      • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

This is a strict definition of disability. Social Security program rules assume that working families have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disabilities, including workers’ compensation, insurance, savings and investments.

If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same.

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