Many people are aware that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based program that provides monthly cash benefits for people with limited resources who can't work. But if you're approved on your SSI disability claim, you likely also qualify for additional benefits that you might not yet know about. You can use these resources to help you pay for housing, food, and medical bills that often pile up during the disability determination process.
Besides a monthly cash benefit, SSI recipients usually become eligible for Medicaid and food stamps. Most people use their cash benefits for housing and food. If a child receives SSI, their parent (or other representative payee) can spend the child's SSI check on things like food, shelter, clothing, medical care, recreation, tutoring, and lessons.
For 2023, the maximum monthly federal payment for SSI is $914, but it can be more or less depending on whether you have income and whether your state pays an SSI supplement. On average, SSI pays $604 in monthly benefits.
In addition to your ongoing monthly cash benefit, you'll likely—depending on how long it takes for Social Security to approve your application—be entitled to a payment of past-due benefits. For SSI, you can receive past-due benefits calculated from the first day of the month after you applied.
Because it can take Social Security years to approve your application for SSI benefits, your backpay may be worth many thousands of dollars. Back pay is often paid out as a lump sum, but depending on the amount of backpay you are owed, the payment may be broken into installments. (Keep in mind if you receive a lump-sum payment, the SSI program has certain restrictions on how you can spend the money.)
Read the rules on when SSI backpay is paid in installments and when it is paid in a lump sum.
If you're approved for SSI, you are automatically entitled to Medicaid benefits. In most states, you don't have to apply separately; your Medicaid benefits will start soon after you are approved.
SSI recipients also usually qualify for food stamps—commonly referred to as electronic benefits transfer, or EBT—through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP helps people buy food by providing a grocery credit.
If you're awarded SSI, you won't be automatically enrolled in SNAP, but you can get a SNAP application at any Social Security office. Learn more in our article on getting food stamps.
Many SSI applicants find that they need to switch housing, often for financial reasons. Landlords or mortgage companies usually need to see proof of income before you can rent a new apartment or buy a house. You can obtain a "benefit verification letter" online from Social Security if you need proof that you're receiving SSI, or that you've applied for SSI. (Some companies call this a "proof of award letter" or "budget letter.")
A benefit verification letter includes the amount of income you receive every month, the date that you receive the payment every month, whether Medicare premiums are taken out of your payment, and your date of birth. You can request a letter online if you have a Social Security account, or you can call the national Social Security number at 800-772-1213.
SSI is one of two types of disability benefits provided by the Social Security Administration. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is another program that you might qualify for, depending on your work history and how much you paid in taxes.
The terms SSDI and SSI are sometimes used interchangeably, but SSDI has some advantages that can make the program more attractive to people who meet the eligibility requirements, such as:
You might be able to qualify for both types of benefits (a "concurrent claim" in disability lingo.) For more information, see our article on the types of benefits available from Social Security.
Updated January 4, 2023
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