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Supplemental Security Income (SSI)


The United States Social Security Administration (SSA) defines SSI (Supplemental Security Income) as "a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes) designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income. It provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter" (

SSI eligibility is a gateway to a variety of services for transitioning students with disabilities. The requirements are established by the Social Security Act and its regulations. A student must meet both income and disability eligibility requirements to receive SSI benefits.

Individuals of any age who are blind or disabled may be eligible for SSI benefits. Other eligibility requirements include:

  • Limited income and resources
  • United States citizen or national or specific classes of aliens 
  • Not be absent from the country for a full month or for more than 30 consecutive days
  • Various application requirements

The SSA classifies an individual as a child if he or she is under 18 years of age, or is under 22 years of age, not married, not a head of household, and regularly attends school. The SSA definition of "blind" is the same for individuals of all ages; the definition of "disabled" is slightly different for children and adults. The SSA defines "disabled" for a child as having "a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which:

  • Results in marked and severe functioning limitations; and
  • Can be expected to result in death; or
  • Has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months."

Individuals over 18 years of age who do not meet SSA’s criteria for being considered a child must meet adult eligibility criteria, including that the impairment "results in the inability to do substantial gainful activity."

SSI/SSDI work incentives allow students to participate in paid work and maintain their benefits. Work incentives may be resources to discuss with students and families when developing Individual Educational Plans (IEPs) that include continued employment, education, or training after high school. Work incentives allow a student to:

  • Engage in paid employment.
  • Increase income without loss of cash benefits or eligibility for other benefits such as Medicaid.
  • Offset expenses incurred as a result of their work.
  • Save for further postsecondary education or training or start a business.

SSI beneficiaries, representative payees, and deemors may report their monthly wages to the Social Security Administration by mail or telephone or by taking their paystubs to the local SSA office. Instructions and worksheets for reporting wages by telephone are available at  


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