Lansing Disability Lawyer

Supplemental Security Income program explained

Our clients seeking Michigan Social Security disability benefits will often ask our Lansing disability lawyer to explain Supplemental Security Income. They want to know if they are eligible for both Michigan Social Security insurance disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income, or some combination of the two. Supplemental Security Income is often referred to as SSI.

Our Lansing disability lawyer will explain that claimants seeking Michigan Social Security disability may be eligible for benefits under either program, or some combination of the two. But, if they qualify for both, they may lose SSI benefits or receive a reduced SSI amount, depending on the amount of the Social Security disability benefits. We point out, though, that if the amount of Social Security disability benefits they receive disqualifies them from receiving SSI, they still may get SSI benefits during the five-month waiting period after becoming disabled when no Social Security disability benefits are paid, assuming assets and any other income are small enough.

What is SSI?

The SSI program is a federal welfare program for the blind, disabled, and those over 65. It makes monthly payments to people who have low income and few assets. Many states, including the state of Michigan, supplement the federal SSI benefit. The state benefit amount varies from state to state.

The Social Security Administration manages the Social Security disability and SSI programs. However, while Social Security disability benefits are paid out of the Social Security trust fund, SSI disability benefits come from the U.S. Government’s general revenues.

Qualification requirements for SSI disability benefits

To be eligible for SSI disability benefits, a disability applicant must meet the following requirements:

  • Meet the SSI program’s income and asset limitation requirements.
  • Live in the United States or the Northern Mariana Islands, and are a U.S. citizen or fall into the group of limited exceptions to the citizenship rule.

Unlike Social Security disability benefits, there is no “insured” or earnings requirement. SSI benefits are not paid for by Social Security taxes like Social Security disability benefits. No work history is required, nor is the payment of Social Security taxes. However, your income and assets must not exceed the SSI program’s income and asset limitations, which are discussed in greater detail below.

SSI asset and income limitations

SSI is a needs based program. Unlike Social Security disability where there are no asset limitations, SSI has an asset limitation of $2,000 per individual and $3,000 per couple. Assets include things like cash, real estate, stocks and bonds. The Social Security Administration doesn’t count everything you own in determining the value of your assets. For example, they don’t count: a home of any value (as long as it is lived in), one car of any value (if it is used for work or to obtain medical care), and life insurance policies with a face value of $1,500 or less.

The SSI income limit is based on the monthly SSI benefit amount after several different kinds and amounts of unearned and earned income are not counted. “Income” is money you receive such as wages, pensions and Social Security benefits, and can also include things like food and shelter. The Social Security Administration counts as income things like your spouse’s income. The Social Security Administration doesn’t count income such as the first $20 a month of most income you receive; food stamps; and shelter you receive from a nonprofit organization. The income amount left after the Social Security Administration has made all of its allowable deductions is referred to as “countable income.”

If your monthly countable income is over the SSI benefit amount, you cannot receive benefits. And the more countable income you have, the less your benefit will be. People who receive support and maintenance, such as from a relative, are often eligible for less SSI disability benefits.

Waiting period to receive SSI benefits and retroactivity

There is no waiting period to receive SSI disability benefits. Your SSI payment will begin with the first month after all the SSI requirements are met or when the definition of disability is met, whichever is later.

There is no retroactive effect for an SSI disability application. You will only be eligible for SSI disability benefits beginning the month after your application.


SSI disability payment amount

The amount you receive is a federal amount set by Congress plus a state supplement, if any, set by your state. The state of Michigan provides a Michigan SSI state supplement. Your Michigan SSI state supplement amount may vary according to your living arrangements. Your countable income will be subtracted from the federal amount before the Michigan SSI state supplement is added. The SSI federal amount is adjusted each year based on changes in cost of living.

How to apply for SSI disability benefits

Separate applications are required to apply for each of Social Security disability and SSI benefits. However, the Social Security Administration will determine when you apply for disability benefits which program you are eligible for or if you are eligible for both.

You apply for SSI disability benefits the same way you apply for Social Security disability benefits:

  1. You can complete a large part of your application by visiting the Social Security Administration’s website at
  2. You can call the Social Security Administration toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday) to ask for an appointment with a Social Security representative from the local Michigan Social Security office. The appointment can be made to apply over the phone or to go to your local Michigan Social Security office to complete an application in person.

You also may visit a Michigan Social Security Administration office without an appointment, but you may have to wait to speak to a representative.

Assistance from a Lansing disability lawyer

If you want our help with your Social Security disability or SSI claim, please give us a brief description of your situation using the form to the right. Or contact us at:

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People helping people. Advocates for Social Security disability claimants and sickle cell patients.