The Pros & Cons of Supplemental Security Income

SSI support is available to any low-income individual who is disabled, blind or at least 65.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is run by the Social Security Administration to help disabled and needy people pay for basic needs like food, clothing and shelter. Like other income support mechanisms, SSI provides regular cash payments, but the program has both positive and negative aspects, especially in the areas of benefits, responsibilities, eligibility and timing.

Pro: Benefits

A positive aspect of SSI is that every claimant's benefits are based on a federal scale, which provides a significant degree of predictability and stability. While the maximum varies from year to year, changes are tied to the Consumer Price Index. In addition, many states offer supplementary support.

Another pro is that SSI recipients can also qualify for food stamps and Medicaid assistance. If an individual was able to earn taxable wages at some point in his life, he may be eligible for concurrent Social Security payments.

Con: Responsibilities

On the negative side, SSI claimants are responsible for locating, compiling and disclosing a great deal of personal information, including confidential medical records. In particular, inadequate or inaccurate documentation of a disability can cause officials to deny or discontinue benefits.

Beyond health-related data, an SSI applicant is required to provide detailed information about his income, assets and other financial resources, where and with whom he lives and whether he receives additional forms of public assistance.

Pros and Cons: Eligibility

There are both pros and cons associated with SSI eligibility criteria. An advantage is that support is available to any individual who has limited income and is disabled, blind or at least 65 years old. Unlike Social Security Disability Income, SSI eligibility does not depend on prior work history.

However, SSI claims can be affected by a wide range of factors, including the applicant's living arrangements. For example, payments to an otherwise eligible recipient can be reduced if he shares rent with a partner or resides in a nursing home funded primarily by Medicaid.

Pros and Cons: Timing

A positive aspect of SSI is the regularity of payments: Checks are issued to all recipients on the first of every month. However, the claims process is slow and time-consuming. There can be a considerable delay between completing an application and receiving a decision from the Social Security Administration. If an applicant disagrees with officials, about either his eligibility or the amount of benefits he is to receive, more time will be lost while he appeals the determination.

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