Ask Dr. CC: What is Supplemental Security Income?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes).  SSI is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income; and SSI provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.
Are you or is your loved one eligible for SSI benefits?

This link will take you to the SSI Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool.  Take 5 to 10 minutes to answer a few questions, and find out if you are eligible for SSI or other benefits.

Become a certified caregiver through and start a rewarding career as a Special Needs Personal Care Aide

How do I apply for SSI benefits?

You can apply for SSI benefits by calling  1-800-772-1213 (or TTY 1-800-325-0778  if you are deaf or hard of hearing and make an appointment to apply for SSI benefits. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, they will take your telecommunications relay services (TRS) assisted calls at 1-800-772-1213. With an appointment, one of their representatives will help you apply for benefits. You can have an appointment to apply for benefits on the telephone or in person at your local Social Security office.

You can have someone else call and make the appointment for you or assist you with your application for SSI benefits. You can have someone help you with:

  • completing forms;
  • going with you to your local Social Security office;
  • interpreting for you;
  • gathering and giving information;
  • taking you to medical examinations, tests, or to your local Social Security office; or
  • receiving mail for you at his or her address

It is okay to visit their office to apply without making an appointment, but you might have to wait awhile…

You will have to provide information and work with them to get documents concerning SSI eligibility.  You will have to file an application. They do not have SSI applications online.  Most of the forms to apply for SSI are not designed for self-completion.  Their claims representative interviews you and uses a computer to complete the forms with information you give to them or someone else gives to us on your behalf.

When should I apply?

Apply as soon as possible so that you do not lose benefits. SSI will pay benefits for time periods earlier than your application effective date.

If you call them to make an appointment to apply and you file an application within 60 days of the call, they may use the date of your call as your application filing date.

If you do not keep the appointment and you do not contact them to reschedule the appointment, they will try to contact you. If they do not get in touch with you to reschedule the appointment, they will send you a letter. The letter will say that if you file an application within 60 days from the date of the letter, they will use the date of your original contact with us as your SSI application date.

Isn’t that nice?

If you are a resident in a public institution, but you will be leaving within a few months, you may not be eligible for SSI benefits until you leave. You may, however, be able to apply before you leave so that SSI benefits can begin quickly after you leave. Check with the institution and them about filing an application under the “prerelease procedure.”

The Understanding SSI booklet provides comprehensive general information about SSI eligibility requirements and processes. Written especially for SSI advocates, but also useful for the general public, it addresses a broad range of topics, from applying for benefits to reporting events that may change the payment of benefits.

SSI Spotlights are a series of 27 fact sheets about a variety of SSI topics, e.g., living arrangements, and are designed to supplement the guidelines in Understanding SSI (see above).

In addition, Spanish versions of the spotlights are available at Puntos Importantes de Seguridad de Ingreso Suplementario (SSI).

Social Security Handbook

This is a link to Chapter 21 of the Social Security Handbook which contains material about SSI organized in question and answer format so that you can find the information you need quickly and easily.


About Elder Care Advice blog

Get professional elder care giving advice, advocacy, education and tips for those who care for and about the frail elderly at the ElderCareAdvice blog. We are generously sponsored by Most posts are written by Cathleen V. Carr, unless attributed otherwise. We welcome relevant submissions. Submit your article and by-line for publishing consideration (no promises!) to Havi at, our own editor who will ensure submissions are given the best possible treatment and polish before publication, ensuring a professional level of publication. There is a nominal service fee involved ($45). Allow up to 30 days for publishing.
This entry was posted in Advocacy, Caregiving, Certified Caregiver, Elder Care, Elder Care Goods and Services, Elder Law and Finances, Professional Eldercare, Questions 4 Dr. CC, Special Needs and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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