Is It Possible to Live On Social Security Supplemental Security Income


Many disabled people ask, “Is it possible to live on Social Security Supplemental Security Income?” Most people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) agree that living on Supplemental Security Income is very difficult but not impossible.

SSI is a financial program designed to assist disabled low income individuals. If you’re approved for SSI, know that the money you receive is provided from U.S. Treasury general revenues and not Social Security-specific taxes. You will need to budget your SSI benefits with care to make ends meet, so plan to live lean. On the plus side, your SSI benefits are yours to keep. There’s no need to repay the funds to Social Security or the U.S. government if your financial situation and/or health condition improves in the future.

SSI vs. Other Retirement or Disability Benefits

Unlike Social Security retirement or disability benefits, SSI doesn’t require a specific number of Social Security income credits or years of work history to qualify. SSI is available if you’re disabled and poor. You, a disabled spouse or child can qualify for SSI even if you’ve never earned an income in the United States.  The good news is that, if you qualify for SSI, it’s possible to qualify for supplemental state income (if your state offers it) and other programs that can stretch your SSI dollars. Ask Social Security Administration representatives about qualifying for Medicaid or Medicare, supplemental nutrition assistance, state commodities (e.g. foodstuffs) programs, and other programs.

Medicaid or Medicare

Medicaid is a federal health care program that pays for most medical expenses. In many states, approval for SSI is all that’s required to qualify for Medicaid. In other states, it’s necessary to file an application for Medicaid. If you qualify for Medicaid, dependent children are also likely to qualify for these services.

If you don’t qualify for Medicaid, you may qualify for assistance with paying for Medicare. Ask Social Security about programs available or look for “Qualified Medicare Beneficiary” or “Qualifying Individual” programs to obtain this financial help. Medicare premiums must be paid each month and, if assistance is available to pay them, your SSI or other disability benefits stretch further.

SNAP! Program and Local Food Banks

Your state food stamp program falls under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. With the exception of California, all U.S. states allow residents receiving SSI to receive SNAP assistance. California pays SSI recipients a slightly higher monthly income to offset SNAP food stamp assistance.

SNAP benefits aren’t actually issued in stamp form these days. The recipient receives an electronic card that’s loaded on a specific day of the month. Recipients can use the benefits to pay for food but can’t retrieve cash from the card.

SNAP benefits are intended to allow recipients to eat well. Individuals in most states receive an average USD 150 to 200 per month in SNAP benefits. If the recipient is approved for SSDI benefits, he or she may later earn too much to continue receiving SNAP. You may be asked to requalify for SNAP each year.

Local food banks, food pantries, and community organizations also distribute food to families or individuals in need. Ask your local SSA office or contact your municipal government office about the locations and hours of these providers in your area. Some charitable organizations also distribute cleaning supplies and personal care items that SNAP benefits don’t pay for.

Temporary-Transitional Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)

Getting approved for SSI benefits can take months or even years to accomplish after your application is submitted to SSA. If you’re in need of financial resources and food, contact your state’s TANF office when you apply for SSI.

  • In most cases, an interview appointment isn’t required or recommended at the outset. Simply go to the TANF office during hours of operation, submit an application, and discuss your circumstances with the TANF counselor.
  • TANF is likely to provide access to food stamps within days of the first appointment. In order to qualify for cash benefits, you will be asked to supply information about your disability and financial circumstances.
  • Like SSA, your state TANF office needs to know the names of your doctors, when you visited medical providers, and your existing financial resources. Physical or mental disabilities and conditions may qualify you to receive TANF.
  • You will be asked to submit financial records, such as a bank statement, to qualify for TANF. Your assets must be very low to qualify for TANF. For instance, many states won’t allow you to own a car and receive TANF.

Like SNAP benefits, TANF cash is loaded to an electronic card on a certain day of the month. The average individual receives a few hundred dollars in cash per month. Plan to draw the cash from the electronic card. You may be limited to one or two cash access requests per month and can’t use the card like a bank debit card for purchases.

If you’re approved for SSI or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) income, SSA repays your state TANF office for the benefits you received. Benefits received between the time you submitted an SSI/SSDI application and the receipt of your first SSI/SSDI payment(s) are refunded to TANF.

State Commodity Relief

Some states offer commodity (foodstuffs) programs to help needy individuals and families. Some programs are offered by both the federal and resident state governments. To qualify to receive food, you must submit an application. Inquire about programs for which you may qualify by contacting your state’s Health & Human Services office or your local municipal office.

State Supplemental Income

Because it’s challenging to live on SSI, many states offer supplemental income to their residents who receive these benefits. SSI pays USD 733 per month to individuals in 2016, so most recipients need additional money to pay for life’s necessities.

Several states, including West Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kansas, and Mississippi don’t offer supplemental income to SSI recipients. Ask the SSA local field office about additional resources in that case.