Supplemental Security Income

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The legislation creating the program was a result of President Nixon's effort to reform the nation's welfare programs. At that time, each state had similar programs under the Aid to the Blind, Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disabled, and Aid to the Elderly. The Nixon Administration thought these programs should be federalized and run by the Social Security Administration. Thus, SSI was created to eliminate the differences between the states including different disability standards and income and resources requirements, which many perceived as irrational or unfair. President Richard Nixon signed the Social Security Amendments of 1972 on October 30, 1972 which created the SSI Program. The SSI program officially began operations in January 1974 by federalizing states' programs, designating the Social Security Administration (SSA) to administer the SSI program. SSA was selected because it had been administering a nationwide disability program under the Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) program since 1956 under the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) programs associated with FICA payroll taxes.


In order to be eligible to receive SSI benefits, individuals must prove the following:[5]

  • They are 65 or older, blind, or disabled.
  • They legally reside in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Northern Mariana Islands, or are the child of military parent(s) assigned to permanent duty outside of the US, or are a student (certain restrictions apply) temporarily abroad.
  • They have income and resources within certain limits (see subsections).
  • They have applied for the benefits.

An individual may be ineligible if they are a resident of a public institution from the first day of a month through the last day of the same month,[6] fails to apply for all other benefits for which they may be eligible (including Social Security benefits), has an unsatisfied warrant or violates parole conditions, fails to give SSA permission to contact any financial institution for financial records, or is outside the US for 30 consecutive days (with some exclusions).[5] Numerous restrictions have been placed on who is eligible for the benefit, which is considered a welfare benefit. However, unlike social security benefits (Title II), earned work credits are not a requirement for SSI.[7]

If insured for disability and not currently receiving benefits, an applicant for SSI also applies for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), and the standard by which applicants are judged to be disabled is virtually the same for both SSI and DIB

The decision as to whether an individual is disabled is made by the various state Disability Determination Services (DDS), which contract with the federal government to make such determinations. Although the DDS's are state agencies, they follow federal rules. This arrangement arose from the inception of OASDI, when some key members of Congress considered the Social Security Disability program should be administered employing federalism, fearing expansion of the federal government.

Aged, Disabled, or Blind

In order to be eligible for SSI, a person must meet the definition of being aged, disabled, or blind.

Aged - Being deemed aged consists of attaining the age of 65 or older.[5] The Social Security Administration, like the United States Government in general, follows English common law and considers a person to attain an age the day before their birthday.[8]

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