SSI is the basic federal safety net program for the elderly, blind and disabled, providing them with a minimum guaranteed income. For 2022, the maximum federal SSI benefit is $841 a month for an individual and $1,261 a month for a couple (normally, the amounts go up every January 1). These amounts are supplemented in most states (see below).

Although the Social Security Administration (SSA) administers the program, eligibility for SSI benefits is based on financial need, not on how long you have worked or how much you have paid into the Social Security system. However, the financial eligibility rules are quite stringent. If you are seeking SSI benefits because you are disabled, you must demonstrate to the SSA’s satisfaction that you are disabled. This evaluation focuses on whether an individual is capable of being gainfully employed. Although the criteria are far too detailed to be described here, generally speaking a disabled recipient must earn less than $1,000 a month from work.  For more details, see the SSA’s “Information You Need to Apply For Disability Benefits.”