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SSI Eligibility Information

What is the definition of "blindness"?

  • Under SSI/SSP rules, blindness means that you are statutorily blind. Statutorily blind means you have central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in your best eye with the use of a corrective lens. This definition also applies to children. Your doctor can tell you if you are statutorily blind.
  • In order to meet eligibility based on blindness, you may submit proof from a doctor or another medical person accepted by the Social Security Administration (SSA), or SSA can request the proof from your doctor with your permission. SSA then reviews this information to determine if you qualify.

What is the definition of "disabled"?

  • SSI/SSP rules define "disabled" to mean that you are unable to do any substantial, gainful activity because of a mental or physical impairment that can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months or that will result in death.
  • "Substantial, gainful activity" generally means work with wages in excess of $500 per month.
  • For children under age 18, "disabled" means there is medical evidence of a physical or mental impairment which limits the child's ability to function and the impairment is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.
  • In order to meet eligibility based on a disability, you may submit proof from a doctor or other medical person accepted by the SSA, or SSA can request the proof from your doctor with your permission. SSA then reviews this information to determine if you qualify.

What are the income limits?

  • Your monthly income, after certain amounts are disregarded by SSA, cannot be greater than the maximum monthly SSI/SSP benefit amount.
  • Income is anything you receive in cash or in-kind that can be used or sold to meet your needs for food, clothing and shelter. In-kind income is actually food, clothing or shelter, or something you can use to get any of those. As noted above, some income is not counted in determining eligibility.
  • An SSA claims representative will review your application and verify your income to determine if you meet the program's income limits.

What are the resources limits?

  • The resources you own cannot be greater than $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple.
  • Resources are cash or other property (real or personal) which you can convert to cash for your support. Some examples are stocks, bonds, mutual funds, mortgages, bank accounts, household goods, boats and vehicles, or land.
  • Some resources are not counted in determining your eligibility, such as: your principal place of residence (regardless of value), one car (if it is used to provide necessary transportation or if it does not exceed a certain value), and household goods and personal effects of reasonable value.

How does the SSI/SSP program work?

  • If you apply for benefits due to disability or blindness and you have no medical source that will furnish your medical records, SSA may send you to a doctor for a specific test or exam. SSA then reviews your medical information, verifies other aspects of your application (income, resources, etc.) and makes a decision on whether you qualify for benefits. In some cases, the disability determination process may take many months. If you are determined to be disabled, you will be paid for the months you were disabled while the determination process took place. After that, you will receive a benefit check each month for as long as you qualify. SSA will periodically re-verify your eligibility.
  • If you apply based on your age, SSA verifies your age and other aspects of your application (income, resources, etc.) and makes a decision on whether you qualify for benefits. If you qualify, you will receive a monthly check from SSA for as long as you continue to qualify. SSA will periodically re-verify your eligibility.
  • If SSA determines that you do not qualify to receive SSI/SSP benefits, you will be given information on appealing that decision.

What are examples of public institutions?

  • Public institutions are state hospitals, jails, prisons, veterans hospitals, or any other place operated or controlled by federal, state or local government.

Which non-citizens qualify?

A non-citizen qualifies if he or she is lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the U.S. and:

  1. is a refugee or asylee in his/her first 5 years of U.S. residency; or
  2. is an active duty member of, or an honorably discharged veteran of, the U.S. Armed Forces, or is the spouse or unmarried dependent minor child of such a person; or
  3. has worked and earned 40 quarters of credit (10 years) under Social Security;
    • work credits earned by a spouse, or by a parent while the non-citizen was under 18, may also count toward the 40 quarters of Social Security credits; or
  4. was already getting SSI/SSP when the eligibility law was changed on August 22, 1996. These recipients will be notified by SSA that their benefits will be stopped unless they submit proof of citizenship or that they meet one of the exception categories above. The law requires SSA to review all the cases, and stop SSI/SSP benefits for ineligible non-citizens by August 22, 1997. SSA will send a second notice that will tell the non-citizen when the benefit will be stopped.

Those non-citizens that are granted withholding of deportation or asylum, are eligible for the first five years from the date their status allows them to remain in the U.S.

Are medical services provided to SSI/SSP recipients?

  • If you are eligible for SSI/SSP, you automatically receive benefits under the Medi-Cal program.