Social Security benefits are one of the most important income sources many seniors have. Unfortunately, retirement benefits will not go far enough by themselves to support you in most cases.

The good news is, there is another potential source of Social Security benefits some seniors may be eligible for that could potentially provide as much as $914 extra every month. 

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SSI benefits could give you a lot more monthly income

Social Security retirement benefits are earned benefits, with the amount you receive based on your average earnings during the 35 years when you made the most money (after adjusting for inflation). If you didn't earn a lot, your benefit may be very low. You could potentially claim survivor or spousal benefits based on a spouse's work history if you're eligible for them, but that's not an option for everyone.

If you aren't a very high earner, you could potentially claim another type of benefit called Supplemental Security Income in addition to your retirement checks. SSI benefits are not earned benefits based on what you paid into the system, but rather are meant to support people with limited incomes who need some extra help. 

The maximum SSI benefit in 2023 totals $914 for an individual, or $1,371 for a qualifying individual with a qualifying spouse. So if you are eligible to receive this other form of Social Security, you could potentially increase your monthly income by a substantial sum.  

Are you eligible for an extra $914-a-month payment?

To receive extra income from SSI, you need to meet certain eligibility requirements. Specifically:

  • You must be 65 or older, or you must be disabled or blind.
  • Your income must be limited. Income includes both earned and unearned income, as well as in-kind income (things like housing or food provided to you at below the market rate).
  • Your financial resources must be limited. You cannot have more than $2,000 in countable resources as a single person or $3,000 as a couple. Most assets count as resources for this test, but not things like the house where you live or a car you use for transportation.  

If you meet these requirements, $914 is the maximum you would be eligible to collect from SSI. The benefit amount you actually end up with is reduced, though, if you have some other income. Social Security retirement benefits do count as income for these purposes, although the first $20 is exempt. As a result, any Social Security benefits above $20 will reduce your SSI on a dollar-for-dollar basis. So, for example, if you received $500 in Social Security, the first $20 wouldn't be counted against you, but your SSI benefits would be reduced by $480.

Because Social Security retirement benefits reduce SSI, only around 1.34 million people receive both retirement and Supplemental Security Income benefits. And many of those seniors who double dip do end up with a payment less than $914. In November 2022, for example, the average monthly SSI payment for seniors 65 and over who were receiving SSI benefits totaled $508.84.

The Social Security Administration website has a screener that can help you to determine if you may be eligible to receive SSI benefits. If you do not have a substantial amount of financial resources and your income is limited, it's worth taking the time to check and see if you could potentially receive extra money through the SSI program. These extra funds could make all the difference when it comes to the financial security you enjoy as a senior, so it's worth checking out.