How Much Does SSI Pay?
While SSI is a federal program (administered by the Social Security Administration), and the federal government pays a standard base rate of $710 per month, most SSI recipients receive more or less than the federal benefit rate. For starters, the federal benefit rate for couples is of $1,066, which you'll get if you are married and your spouse is eligible for SSI benefits as well. In addition, the federal rate amount regularly changes with cost of living increases.
But most importantly, your actual monthly payment will depend on how much income you or your family brings in or earns and how much of a state supplemental payment (SSP) your state pays, if any.
How Income Affects Your SSI Payment
If you have any income coming in other than SSI, some of it, but not all of it, will be subtracted from your SSI payment.
The SSA will first look to see what income you have is countable. Countable income includes:
- money you earn from work (you can make a small amount of money and still be eligible for SSI)
- food or shelter you get for free, or for less than what it's worth (called "in-kind support and maintenance," or IKSM)
- money you get from friends or family
- other benefits, such as workers' compensation, unemployment, SSDI, or a pension.
But not all income is subtracted from your SSI payment. Each month, the SSA does not count:
- the first $20 of any kind of income you receive
- the first $65 of money you earn from work, plus half of the remainder
- food stamps
- income tax refunds, or
- food or shelter provided by a nonprofit agency.
Calculating Your SSI Payment
Here is an example of how the SSA takes into account your income in calculating your SSI payment. Maria makes $315 per month, before taxes. Because the SSA won't subtract the first $20 of any income per month from the SSI payment, or the first $65 of earnings, this leaves Maria's countable income at $230. Next, the SSA doesn't subtract half of your earnings from your SSI payment, or $115 (230/2) in Maria's case. So, the SSA will subtract only $115 of Maria's $315 income from her SSI payment, so her monthly payment would be $595 ($710-$115).
Adding on the State Supplement
While the federal benefit rate is the same through the United States, many states add a "state supplemental payment" onto the federal benefit. The payment varies from $10 to $200, depending on the state. Even within your own state, the supplementary payment can vary depending on whether you are married or single and what your living arrangement is. For instance, California adds an extra $171 (in 2010) to the SSI payment for most people living independently, with cooking facilities, and $255 to those living independently without cooking facilities.
Some states pay the supplement only to those living in nursing homes. For example, Texas pays a $60 supplement (in 2010) only to those living in a nursing home, and paid nothing to others. Similarly, Georgia pays $20 (in 2010) to those living in nursing homes, nothing to others. Maine paid only $10 extra, both to those living independently and those living in nursing homes.
A few states don’t pay a supplement at all, including Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
The SSA administers the state supplement for some states, so the payment is included in your SSI check, but other states pay the supplement directly to you, separately from your SSI payment. If you live in a state that administers and pays its own supplement, you need to apply for the supplemental payment directly from a state agency (the SSA can tell you how). If the SSA administers the payment for your state, you apply for it automatically when you fill out an SSI application.
For more information, see our article on the state supplementary payment.