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Understanding Supplemental Security Income

Supplemental Security Income or SSI is an alternate disability benefits option for those without the necessary work history to qualify for Social Security disability insurance benefits. SSI benefits are for disabled individuals who are unable to work because of a physical or mental disability and have limited income and resources.

Disabled individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income who have returned to work or are considering returning to work may wonder what impact working may have on their eligibility for benefits and receipt of their benefits. Social Security disability or SSD benefits provide a trial period during which the disabled individual may try returning to work to see if they are able to do so and may continue to receive benefits. SSI does not offer a similar trial period. For disabled individuals who do not receive any other income than SSI benefits and the income they earn from work, they may earn up to $1,555 per month before losing their benefits.

Incentives to return to work while on SSI may be available, so it can be helpful for the disabled individual to understand what those are if they are considering returning to work. To be eligible for either SSI or SSD benefits, an applicant must be unable to perform substantial gainful activity. Substantial gainful activity or SGA refers to both physical and mental exertion or a combination of both. Earning a certain amount of income can be considered substantial gainful activity, which is why it is helpful for disabled individuals to understand SGA and the impact it may have on their benefits.

Because there are specific earnings amounts and limits associated with SGA and other aspects of SSI, it is helpful for disabled individuals to be familiar with the details and eligibility requirements associated with SSI claims. SSI is a program that can help disabled individuals who are of limited means, which is why it is important for disabled individuals in that situation, and their families, to be familiar with SSI benefits and how to obtain them.

Source:, “Social Security Q&A: How SSI benefit fits into the big picture,” May 12, 2017


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