Social Security, SSI Are Different Safety Nets

Article excerpt

Byline: Esther Hatfield District Manager, Elgin Social Security Office

People tend to confuse Social Security and Supplemental Security Income because both programs are run by the Social Security Administration and both provide benefits to aged, blind and disabled people.

However, the programs are different in important ways - financing, conditions of eligibility, payment amounts and basic purpose.

Social Security is a social insurance program you pay into when you are working so that you and your family can collect benefits when you can't work because of age, disability or death.

SSI is a public assistance program for people who are aged, disabled or blind with limited income and resources. SSI is paid for through general revenues, not Social Security taxes.

The two programs differ in other areas, such as conditions for eligibility and the method of figuring monthly payments.

Social Security benefits are payable in the event of retirement, disability or death. Wage earners need credit for a certain amount of work under Social Security to receive benefits.

Your benefit amount is based on your earnings averaged over your career. Eligible family members can receive benefits on your record.

To qualify for SSI, people must be age 65 or older or be blind or disabled and have limited income and resources.

Both children and adults can qualify on the basis of disability or blindness.

In deciding whether you meet the financial limits, we exclude part of your income, as well as the value of your house and one car and some other items.

Currently, nearly 250,000 persons in Illinois receive monthly SSI payments. They include 32,535 people 65 and older, and 216,242 who are disabled or blind (under age 65).

For information about the eligibility requirements for Social Security and SSI, type www.ssa.gov to access the following booklets, "Understanding the Benefits" and "Supplemental Security Income" on our Web site.

You also can call toll free at (800) 772-1213 to request copies of these publications, or visit your local Social Security office.

Did you know?

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