The federal government gave the Social Security Administration (SSA) the responsibility to provide insurance and programs for residents in need of assistance. Citizens older than a certain age and those with specific conditions may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
SSI is a benefits program to financially help the elderly, disabled, and terminally ill. An SSI office can also connect you with other resources, like Medicare, disability benefits, and retirement benefits.
As a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, another authorized worker, you have a Social Security number (SSN). Each SSN is a unique nine-digit number, and you will use it for many things, such as when applying for work, a credit card, a bank account, utility services, and housing in some cases.
Your SSN is how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and SSA keep track of your earnings. The IRS needs your SSN when you file your tax return and to send your SSI stimulus check. Your earnings (or your spouse’s earnings) are a factor in your eligibility for SSA benefits and how much you can receive.
The SSA has benefits for those of retirement age, with disabilities, or suffering from terminal diagnoses. Some of the programs the SSA manages includes:
- Disability insurance for qualified workers who need assistance after becoming disabled. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program pays benefits only if you are insured by working and paying enough in Social Security taxes.
- Health insurance from Medicare for those 65 years of age or older and younger residents with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
- Retirement insurance for qualified workers who paid Social Security taxes for around 10 years. Retirements benefits are monthly payments you receive until your death.
- Spousal insurance for spouses of eligible workers. Non-working individuals can qualify for disability, health insurance, and retirement benefits as long as their spouses are eligible.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for low-income families and those who are blind or disabled. To receive monthly SSI benefit payments, you or your spouse who have worked and paid enough Social Security taxes.
- Unemployment insurance for out-of-work individuals who previously worked for a business with unemployment insurance. These benefits are typically not available to entrepreneurs or those working for non-covered businesses, but the federal government extended eligibility in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
You may be eligible for one or more of these SSA programs. In some cases, applying for one program will automatically enroll you in another.
For example, if you apply for SSI benefits and have a disability, you may also receive Medicare health insurance. Find out more about Social Security disability benefits on the next page.