“How I Get By On SSI”


Robin Mead

Lotus Survives on SSI

My life is very simple and I am disabled, but I am comfortable. I live simply and don’t own a car. I use a disability para-transit service and it will take me anywhere in my city for $2. It will also travel all the way to other counties for $5.

I live with my mom and I pay my half of the rent and utilities each month, so my SSI is not lowered.

I was turned down for food stamps, but someone explained the rules to me and I reapplied.

I now get $150 per month in food stamps. My mom works but they do not count her income because my food is separate. My mom is my authorized shopper so she is allowed to use food stamps card to shop for me because I am not able to go to the store myself.

My rent is $400. My food stamps are $150. My SSI is $750.

Learn more: How to Get Enough Food Stamps to Actually Eat

Willow Survives on SSI

I live in HUD Housing. My apartment is small but nice and it is well-maintained. The other people in the building are mostly elderly and everyone is very happy to be living here because the staff is really nice and the location is really good.

Many seniors who live here cannot drive and are happy because it is only one block from groceries, pharmacies, book stores, restaurants, movie theaters, etc. There is also a common room where they have bingo, games, a library, and computers you can use.

My rent is $200 per month. My home aide lives with me. Her rent is free. Because my rent is so cheap, I no longer get any food stamps. My SSI check is $750.

Learn more: How to Find Yourself a Nice, Affordable HUD Apartment (for People with Disabilities)

Ivy Survives on SSI

If you have SSI, you have to find a way to pay rent and all your food on that. They require that you justify the rent you are paying is market price, and that nobody is subsidizing you. If you live in the more expensive parts of the country, this means you have to come up with an ingenious living situation, because there is no “market price” rent that is $735/mo.

They don’t ask you if anyone is helping you with things or giving you presents (except for food and shelter). They do not care how you spend your money, as long as you stay under the amount allowed in your bank account and you pay your own food, rent and utilities.

They don’t tell you any of this, you have to figure it out yourself through trial and error, and the errors can have very serious consequences.

You are allowed to use food stamps to cover a portion of your food. Food banks have also been helpful for me.

If your condition or desire to be healthy requires you to eat fresh organic food, it’s good to know that some urban areas have a program in their farmer’s markets that lets you buy fresh produce with food stamps, and doubles your Food Stamps dollars for you, to make it more affordable. If you spend $20 on Food Stamps, they give you coupons for $40 worth of food.

Learn more: How to Stay Out of Hot Water with SSI

Marigold Changes Her Son’s SSI Check

My son was getting a reduced SSI check. In California the maximum SSI for adults is $889, and he was getting $650.

We live with my sister who owns a house. She wrote a rent receipt for my sons share of the rent. And that’s all I needed.

At the time I had an appointment for our SSI review. I told them about my son paying rent. She gave me a form to have my sister fill out. After that his check went up to maximum.

Learn more: How Much Rent to Pay on SSI

Sally Gets Home Care, Affordable Housing, and Lots More

Sally is low-income and disabled. She is unable to care for herself and has no family to help her. Many people in Sally’s situation wind up in state nursing homes or institutions.

Luckily, Sally found a better way. By learning about different services available, Sally is able to live in her own apartment, have the care she needs, and afford to cover all her expenses.

How did she do it? Meet Jane and Sally

Debbie Helps Her Daughter Get Both Child Support and SSI

It is common for divorces to include child support agreements. For disabled children, this support can sometimes last the rest of the child’s life. But there is a problem! This support can cause the child to lose SSI and Medicaid. Debbie found a way to give her child lifelong support without affecting SSI.

“During my divorce, I saw an estate lawyer who drew up a specific Special Needs Trust for the divorce. This is different than the kind of trust used when someone dies. The estate attorney cost $1,500 flat fee for establishing the trust. It was worth it.

“Because we did it this way, my daughter’s SSI is not affected. I am in charge of the trust. The child support money is given to me, and I put it in trust. Then spend it on her.

The divorce decree does not use the words “child support.” The wording is specific. My divorce attorney wanted to write “child support” but the estate attorney told him not to use those words because it would affect SSI. My estate attorney had to show the divorce attorney different language to use.” – Debbie Vanc

(If you already have a divorce agreement, it may not be too late. Consult with an estate lawyer and look into getting an Order to Modify)

Learn More

How to Survive on SSI

Updated July 2018. Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. 

If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: 

5 thoughts on ““How I Get By On SSI””

  1. I found out that you can get an advance on your backpay to buy a car to get to your medical appointments. I just had to find a used car I wanted, have the seller write a note agreeing to sell for $X and take it to the SSA office. Within a few days, 2 or 3, the money requested was in my account.


      1. I’ll try to post a link to the policy on that.

        Found it. its not just cars, housing, buying a house (yes it can be done on SSI, ask me about it later.) a cell phone, a computer.

        Here’s an excerpt.
        Increase the amount of the first or second or both installment payments if the recipient provides documentation of outstanding debts relating to:

        food, clothing, and shelter; or

        medically necessary services, supplies or equipment, or medicine.

        NOTE: Shelter may include any of the following:


        property insurance,

        utilities (Gas, electric, heating fuel, water, sewer, garbage)

        mortgage payments, and

        property tax

        NOTE: We determine medically necessary services, supplies or equipment on a case-by-case basis. Examples of non-traditional medical expenses can include, but are not limited to, the purchase of a:

        Car when necessary to get to doctor appointments or medical treatment, especially if the recipient lives in a rural area with no public transportation;

        Mobile phone to enable the recipient to contact medical offices; or

        Computer to enable the recipient to use SSA’s online services.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s