Supplemental Security Income

Commonly known as "SSI," an important financial resource for young adults with developmental disabilities.

SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income. It is one of the most important federal programs for people with developmental and similar disabilities. It can provide monthly financial support and eligibility for Medicaid. It is also possible to use Social Security Work Incentives to help offset costs related to employment.

Eligibility is determined by using two criteria: 1) financial need (limited income and other resources) and 2) disability issues that interfere with a person’s ability to be “gainfully” employed.

A few key considerations:

  • Prior to the age of 18, family income and resources are considered when SSA determines eligibility. After 18, adults with disabilities are considered a “family of one” and only their income and resources will be considered.
  • Although it’s possible to be eligible if a student is working, it is easier to obtain SSI if s/he applies before starting work.
  • When applying for SSI as a student, ask the Social Security Administration about being classified as a Disabled Child (DC). Students under the age of 22 who are working and earning wages are eligible for student the Student Earned Income Exclusion. The SEIE can help "shelter" earnings while enrolled as a student.
  • It is important to manage student resources carefully before making SSI application.
  • Be prepared to charge rent or room and board. If you fail to do so, SSI payments will be reduced. In the eyes of SSI, you will be providing a parent subsidy.
  • Consider placing rent payments in a “transition slush fund” that could be dedicated, but not in the name or control of your son or daughter. These funds could be used to supplement or replace public funding of adult services. Consult your attorney or tax advisor before making plans.

Although dated (income amounts have changed with cost of living), the parent briefs that follow are excellent resources for anyone wanting to know more about SSI. They were originally developed by the National Transition Network. Along with other helpful parent briefs, they can be found at the website for the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition .

Supplemental Security Income: A Bridge to Work

Supplemental Security Income (Part 1 of 3): A Bridge to Work (March 2003)
NCSET Parent Brief
This parent brief is part 1 of a 3-part series on supplemental security income. This brief gives parents of youth with disabilities practical information and dispels prevalent myths about SSI. Included are how:

  • Background information, definitions, and specific financial criteria for using SSI
  • Students with developmental disabilities can use Social Security Work Incentives to facilitate a gradual transition from dependence on SSI to partial or complete financial independence
  • Social Security work incentives allow a recipient of Supplemental Security Income to earn wages while maintaining SSI cash benefits and Medicaid.

Supplemental Security Income (Part 2 of 3): So You Have Decided to Apply (April 2003)
NCSET Parent Brief
This parent brief is part 2 of a 3-part series on supplemental security income. The brief is tailored for parents and provides a detailed description of the process for applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The brief outlines four elements, including the:

  • Process of making an appointment with a Social Security Administration representative
  • Specific steps in applying for benefits, including a list of documents that will be helpful in the process
  • Criteria that the Social Security Administration uses to determine an applicant's eligibility, and
  • Information about the evaluation conducted if the Social Security Administration cannot initially make a decision about eligibility.

Supplemental Security Income (Part 3 of 3) : Your Right to Appeal

This is the third in a series of three parent briefs addressing Supplemental Security Income. If you applied for SSI benefits and were denied, you are not alone. Many people are denied. The Disability Determination Service in the state of reports that in 60% of the original applications are denied. Across the nation the denial rate is 70%. Some of these initial denials are overturned when appealed. Although not updated, this brief discusses common reasons for being denied and possible avenues for appealing such a determination.

Other SSI Related Resources

Social Security Work Incentives. As funding realities change, Social Security Work Incentives are playing a larger role in paying for supported employment services. King County Division of Developmental Disabilities is now providing employment resource coordination. KCDDD staff can help explain Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the impact of employment on SSI, and related benefits such as medical coverage through Medicaid. More importantly, they can also assist families in figuring out how to use work incentives (PASS Plans and IRWEs) to help pay for ongoing support needed by a supported employee. For more information, check out the King County DDD website and follow the links to “benefits coordination.”

The Arc of King County provides an Information and Referral Program (I&R) that works to empower people with developmental disabilities and their families and others acting on their behalf to resolve concerns and to access services. The program helps people locate available resources, including SSI, and refers them to appropriate services. The Arc also has a wonderful fact sheet re: SSI. You can also email your questions to .