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Who is eligible to receive SSI benefits?

Many people aren't aware of a potential source of needed income that they or someone in their family may be eligible to get from the Social Security Administration (SSA). It's called Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. Even if someone is getting regular Social Security payments, they may be able to qualify for SSI.

The SSI program is designed to help seniors (those 65 and older) and people who are disabled or blind who need financial assistance. Unlike regular Social Security benefits or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you don't need to have held a job or paid in to the Social Security system to qualify.

In addition to federal SSI benefits, most states (including North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia) provide additional benefits under their own programs. That's why it's important to find out if you qualify for any federal and state benefits.

There are two primary tests to determine whether you qualify financially for SSI (assuming that you meet the age or disability requirements). The first involves how much you have in assets. The maximum is typically $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 if you're applying as a married couple. However, some assets can be exempted, including your home, car, life insurance and some bank accounts.

The second test involves income. A small amount of earned and unearned income doesn't count when determining your eligibility. Neither do scholarships, some tax refunds, state need-based assistance or Social Security benefits.

If you believe that you, a family member or other loved one is eligible for SSI benefits, it's worthwhile to find out more about the program. If you believe that you've wrongly been denied benefits, an attorney experienced in dealing with Social Security benefits can offer guidance and work to help you get the benefits you need and deserve.

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