How To Apply For SSI | Step-By-Step Details

Doctor assisting elderly man with paperwork.

Supplemental Security Income benefits help many Americans afford the basic necessities of life. Unlike traditional Social Security disability benefits, you do not need a work history to qualify for SSI benefits. There are also other ways to qualify for these benefits without having a disability. If you think you might be eligible for benefits, you should complete an SSI application. But you might be wondering how you can apply for these important benefits. Keep reading as we will walk you through the process of applying for benefits. We will tell you how to qualify for benefits, how to complete your application, and what documentation you will need to provide.


How To Apply For SSI Disability Benefits

There is more than one way to apply for SSI benefits, and the method you choose depends on what works best for you. Some people may have access to the Internet and apply online, while others may not have this option. The application is the same regardless of the method you select, but here are the different options available.


— Online Application

The quickest way to apply for benefits is by completing the SSI application online. You just need to visit Social Security’s “Apply for Benefits” page to begin the application. The application will start with some basic information, like your name, address, Social Security number, and other identifying information. After you have provided that information, you will be asked to sign in to your My Social Security Account. From there, you can complete and sign the application.

If you cannot complete your application online, you can have someone else complete the online application for you. When you go this route, a Social Security representative will call you to verify the information that was provided. You should also receive a paper copy of the completed application in the mail for your records.


— Apply Over The Phone

Another option for completing your SSI application form is by speaking with a Social Security representative over the phone. You should call the Social Security Administration (SSA) at their toll-free phone number of 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to schedule a telephone appointment. The representative will give you a call at your scheduled time, and you will provide all your information over the phone. You will be able to provide your consent over the phone, which will serve as your signature on the application.


— Apply At Your Local Social Security Office

The final option for applying for benefits is to visit your local Social Security office. Although walk-ins are now accepted, you should call ahead of time to schedule an appointment at your local office. The Social Security representative at your local office can help you complete your benefits application, and they can let you know if additional information is needed. Remember that you will need to provide original documents to support your application, and the documents needed to apply will be discussed more in the next section.


Steps In The SSI Application Process

A woman sitting at her desk applying for SSI.

Now that you know the different ways you can apply, it is helpful to know the steps in the process. Depending on your situation, you might need to go through slightly different steps. For example, some people need to go through the appeals process to get approved, while others do not. Here are the steps in the application process.


— Complete The Application

First, you will need to complete the application for benefits using one of the methods previously mentioned. The application will require you to provide identifying information, like your name, date of birth, Social Security number, mailing address, and citizenship status. Since SSI benefits are reserved for those with limited income and resources, you will also be asked to provide financial details. If you are using a disability claim as a qualifying event, you will be asked for specifics about your medical condition.


— Provide Required Documents

Since SSI benefits have strict qualification rules, you will need to provide documentation to support your application. While this list is not exhaustive, here are some examples of the types of documents you might be asked to provide. You might need to show your birth certificate, driver’s license, bank statements, medical records, W-2 forms, self-employment tax returns from last year, military service records, and statements from retirement benefits or pensions. Remember that original documents are required in most cases, and photocopies of some of these documents will not be accepted.


— Get A Decision

After you have completed your application and provided all the required information, you will receive a decision. The Disability Determination Office might be involved if your claim involves a disability. If you get approved for benefits, you will receive an award letter in the mail. However, if your application is denied, you still have the right to appeal.


— Appeal The Decision If Necessary

If your application was denied, you might decide to start the appeals process. Many people choose to hire an attorney at this step of the process. The appeals process for Social Security benefits can get complex, and an attorney can help walk you through the process and increase your odds of winning your SSI appeal. Generally, you can ask for a reconsideration of your application to start the appeals process. If that fails, you will want to ask for a hearing with an administrative law judge. The appeals process has strict timelines that must be followed, and failure to meet a deadline will result in your appeal being denied.


Who Qualifies For Supplemental Security Income?

So, what is Supplemental Security Income? SSI is a program that provides monthly payments to people who are blind, disabled, or older and have limited income and resources. There are a few different ways you can qualify for SSI benefits. First, SSI benefits are available to those who are age 65 or older, have limited resources and are U.S. citizens or qualifying aliens, or are blind or disabled AND have limited income. Unlike Social Security disability benefits or retirement benefits, you do not need a work history or Social Security record to qualify for benefits.

However, you must have a financial need. An individual can generally have no more than $2,000 in resources and must have a limited income. The money you earn from work, workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, and free food or shelter all count as income. Qualifying for SSI generally will also automatically qualify you for Medicaid benefits as well, and you may or may not be eligible for Medicare.


SSI Monthly Payment Amounts

A check, cash and social security card in a pile.

So, how much will your SSI check be? Unfortunately, the answer is not that much. For 2023, the maximum SSI payment for a qualifying individual is $914 per month. An individual with a qualifying spouse can receive as much as $1,371. These amounts may be reduced if your income is above a certain threshold.

Remember that qualifying for SSI benefits will automatically qualify you for other important benefits, like food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, and other programs. In combination, these programs can help needy individuals make ends meet.


The Bottom Line

SSI benefits help provide financial assistance to people age 65 and older, those with a disability, or those who are blind. The application process is fairly straightforward, and an application for SSI benefits can be completed online, over the phone, or in person at your local Social Security office. Upon completing the application, you will need to provide documentation that proves your identity, age, and financial status. If your application is denied, you have the right to appeal that decision.


Frequently Asked Questions


How quickly can you get SSI?

On average, it takes about three to five months to start receiving SSI payments after your application has been submitted. However, there are a few conditions that will qualify you for expedited processing. If you have a medical condition that qualifies for presumptive disability or presumptive blindness, you can receive immediate payment from the Social Security Administration. However, note that this immediate payment will be withheld from your first regular payment once your application has gone through the full process.


Is it difficult to get SSI?

If you meet the eligibility criteria, it is not difficult to get SSI benefits. There is no requirement that you have a work history to qualify. Those who are uncertain whether they meet the requirements should go ahead and apply for benefits. If your application is denied, you should consider consulting an attorney to discuss the next steps.


What other benefits are available to people who receive SSI?

Participation in the SSI program can automatically qualify you for many other important benefits. These may include food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance, free cell phones, utility assistance, and other programs. Since SSI is a needs-based program, many people must participate in other assistance programs to afford their basic necessities. You can learn more about the SSI program and other benefit programs available at


What is the difference between SSI and SSDI?

The main difference between SSI and SSDI is that SSDI benefits require a work history. You must have paid Social Security taxes to qualify for SSDI. SSDI payments are typically higher than SSI payments, and there is no requirement that you have a financial need to qualify for SSDI payments. Another difference is the fact that you can qualify for SSI benefits even if you don’t have a disability, as long as you are 65 or older and have limited income and resources.