Social Security disability and SSI benefits are available to all eligible people regardless of their race or ethnicity. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has developed some resources and benefits specifically directed at serving the American Indian and Alaskan Native population.
SSI, which stands for Supplemental Security Income, is available only to disabled or elderly individuals who meet the SSA’s income and resource limits. The SSA will count income from earned sources (like working) and unearned sources (like interest payments from investments). Resources are things stocks, bank accounts, or land. Although there are some income and resources exclusions available to everyone, there are also certain exclusions that are available only to American Indians or Alaskan Natives.
If you have received income or resources from the following sources, they may not be counted towards your income for SSI eligibility purposes:
However, there are specific rules and requirements that must be met for you to be entitled to the exclusions under these programs. You can read about them on the Indian-Related Exclusions page on the SSA's website.
Note that Social Security does count the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) that all Alaskans receive each October when determining continuing eligibility for SSI benefits.
Here is a list of the tribes or groups that may be eligible for the income or resource exclusions discussed above:
If you don't see your tribe or group, contact the SSA.
Your income from the following sources may also be excluded from your income when calculating your SSI eligibility.
To learn about the specific requirements for these exclusions click on the links above.
SSI amounts are determined by finding the difference between the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) and your countable income (income minus the deductions discussed above). Alaska also provide a supplement to SSI recipients, so if you qualify for SSI and are a resident of Alaska, you can receive a state supplement in addition to the federal amount. The amount you receive depends on your living situation. As of 2011, you can get a state supplement in the amount of $362 if you live independently in Alaska. If you live in someone else’s house, you can get an additional $368. If you live in an assisted living facility, you can get an additional $100 in state money. If you live in a Medicaid facility, you can get $45 additional in a state supplement each month.
The SSA has developed some Internet pages to serve the unique needs of American Indian and Alaskan Natives, called the AINA website.
In addition, some tribal social services offices work with the SSA to have its employees make scheduled visits to the tribal social services office. In this case, you may be able to apply for Social Security disability or SSI at your tribal social services office during a scheduled time. Call your tribal social services office to see if this option is available.
CMS Tribal Affairs is part of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a federal agency, and works with American Indian and Alaskan Native tribes to provide healthcare access to members of tribal groups eligible for Medicaid or Medicare.
If you are approved for SSI, you may be eligible for Medicaid immediately. If you are approved for Social Security Disability (SSDI), you will be eligible for Medicare after a two-year waiting period.
Due to the high cost of living, Alaska has its own poverty guidelines, which determine when a resident of Alaska is eligible for federal services such as Medicaid, Medicare subsidies, and subsidies for health plans purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
Most states automatically enroll SSI recipients into the Medicare program, but not all. The following states require a separate application, though their eligibility requirements are the same as the federal government:
The majority of the states follow the federal government rules for eligibility for Medicaid. However, the following states have requirements for Medicaid that vary from the federal government's criteria (and they require a separate application):
For more information, visit Medicaid's state-by-state page.