How to Survive on SSI

Art: Robin Mead

Welcome. This page is about SSI. If you are on SSDI, do not read this page, or you will give yourself a million headaches for no reason. How to Tell What You’re On



💮 Many people find that the main key to being on SSI and staying (mostly) alive is to find subsidized housing. Here’s a good way to get started looking: How to Find Open Waiting Lists the Easy Way

💮 According to the SSI regulations, if you get free or discounted rent from another person, this lowers your disability check, but if you get free or discounted rent from a government program, your disability check will not be affected.

Section 8 Housing 

💮 Section 8 housing is a particularly good match for people on SSI because rent is income-based. Do not listen to anyone who tells you that Section 8 is impossible to get or all Section 8 takes forever or that all Section 8 housing is crappy. Not true. Not true. And also, not true! Here’s what is true: Section 8 Guide for the Disabled and Plucky

💮 If you think that all Section 8 housing is terrible, don’t be so sure: Can Affordable Housing Be Nice? (See for yourself)

💮 Example: If SSI is your only income, rent for an apartment will usually be a little over $200 per month. If utilities are not included in the rent, then rent will be approximately $100 per month. Number of bedrooms does not change amount of rent.


💮 If your food stamps are low or you were turned down for food stamps, please try learning some of the food stamps regulations for people with disabilities.

💮 In most states, maximum food stamps is roughly $200 for one person and $400 for two people.

💮 Food stamps and food banks and food through government programs do not affect your SSI check.


💮 Here is a long list of more ways to make life more affordable if you are low income and disabled: How to Be Poor in America

Home Aides

💮 If you are unable to care for yourself, in some situations, you may be eligible to apply for a program that supplies home aides, or that pays a small salary to the person who is currently caring for you (in many states, a spouse is not allowed, but other family members are allowed)

💮 In most states, this program is only for people with very severe care needs (it doesn’t not matter what your diagnosis is), and this program is designed to help keep people out of nursing homes.

💮 If you are on SSI and approved for a state home aide program, the services will be free: How to Apply for a State Home Aide Program

Your SSI Check

💮 Maximum SSI is between $770-$930 depending on your state.

💮 If your check is below maximum and you do not know why, it may help to take a look here: Ten Common Reasons an SSI Check May Be Low.

💮 The most common reason for a low SSI check is because someone does not know the rules for: Rules for rent, food, mortgage and utilities.

💮 If you first became disabled before the age of 22 take a look here: How to Get Disabled Adult Child Benefits. Does not matter what age you are now.

💮 If you are a widow, or ex-widow, starting at age 50, you may be eligible for Social Security survivor’s benefits (starts at age 50 for disabled people – age 60 for everyone else).



Everything you need to know and want to know. Plus everything you need to know and don’t want to know: Everything No One Ever Tells You About Living on Disability


💮 From time to time, you will be contacted for an SSI financial interview. This may also be called PERC. Here’s How to Handle an SSI Interview


💮 Please report right away if any of these things happen. Report by certified mail or by going to the office and getting a stamped receipt. There is also an app you can use to report income from working.

  • If you receive any cash or money
  • If you have a change of income or assets
  • If you start or stop getting free rent
  • If someone else pays your food, rent or utilities
  • If you live with a spouse and have more children

💮 There are a few other things you want to report that may cause your check to go up or down: What Do I Need to Report to Social Security?

What’s What? 

💮  If you are feeling confused or you are being told conflicting information, there’s a very good chance this is happening because someone is mixing up the resource room with the income rules. Totally different rules! How to Tell the Difference Between the Income and Resource Rules

💮 It’s also possible someone is mixing up the SSI rules with the SSDI rules. Also totally different rules! How to Tell Understand the Difference Between SSI and SSDI

Finding Information

💮 Unfortunately, many many people are told the wrong information about SSI when they call or visit Social Security. The best thing to do is only follow what you can see written on the Social Security website or written in the Social Security policy manual.

💮 You can also call and ask for the name and contact information for your SSI worker. Talk directly to that person only. If you have a question about SSI financial policies, whatever you do never ask questions to the person who answers the phone.

💮 If you have more questions, or run into a problem, check out: How to Solve Your Social Security Problems

💮 Social Security does not tell you all the regulations. Then if you break a regulation without realizing it, you may owe money back. Please learn the regulations for yourself. A long list of regulations can be found here: How to Stay Out of Hot Water with SSI

💮 A few common regulations that may be helpful:


💮 Reports from readers who made it work on SSI. Here’s how they did it: “How I Get By On SSI”

Updated April 2019. 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: 

14 thoughts on “How to Survive on SSI”

  1. I don’t know who is running this website but your information is amazing. I haven’t found anything like this out there. Please keep it up. People who want to do something to help people in need should take you as a prime example.


  2. It is extremely valuable information you have been sharing. I have failed to properly Thank You. Dealing with any govt entity unprepared, is a very frustrating bad start. Will continue to tweet your posts!


    1. Not sure where to ask this question
      Please direct me …first this page is a GODsend so much help lets me know I’m not alone .
      I got my disability in July 2018
      They gave me 514.00 then raised to 771.00 they gave me only 1,900 in back pay even though I was paid back from Nov.2017 when I applied
      Found disabled in 2010 …so I feel I was owed more in back pay can I appeal it


      1. Hi Kimberly,

        I am not sure if it’s too late to appeal, but you can try. Did you have something else lowering your backpay?

        Common reasons would be:

        lawyers fees, past taxes, past child support, student loans or if you were receiving cash aid from the state while applying?

        thank you for your message 🌷


  3. Dear Yourself:
    I have been disabled for 22 years. I have never seen so many PRACTICAL links so useful sites and resources. THANK YOU!


  4. I live on SSI
    I was content in my income based apartment, but now thanks to inheritance, I own paid for house.
    I’m devastated that I can’t afford property taxes and bills.
    I will lose this nice house and be homeless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One option is to sell the house and work with a special needs lawyer to put the funds in a trust. Or you may be able to put the house in a trust, then the trust can sell it.

      Then you can go back to income-based housing, plus draw funds from the trust when needed.

      Also, many areas offer property tax relief to people who are low income.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, I actually have a remarkable story about being approved for SSI Disability and was accepted only about 2-3 years after first being hit with CFS. I had literally been going through hell from a horrible disease that took me out of the game almost 20 years ago and very quickly. I was an avid weight lifter, played sports, ate properly, etc., but that made absolutely no difference as CFS, was, and is, truly a catastrophic disease. The next horror was finding out that not many doctors knew much about CFS and the others just stubbornly believed that it wasn’t even a real disease. It was just all in my head. I did my research about SSI, learned what to do, but always thought that I would be turned down the first try and then I would just hire a lawyer. I really have no idea, how or why, but I was approved on my first try and completely on my own, with no additional help filling out the paperwork or anything. It now has been many years so I can’t remember the process entirely but the very last thing they requested was for me to be evaluated by a really well known psychologist of their choosing. That worried me but it went fine and I was approved soon after. One try! I have had two or three evaluations, the first one was rather extensive but the last two were actually easy on my part and they mostly relied on whatever it was that my doctor told them, I have no idea what he reported to them, at all. I have always been and still am extremely terrified that I will be denied SSI one day in the future, for some reason or another because of being very unfortunate to have a disease that is so misunderstood and controversial. I wish that I could offer more information or tips on exactly what I did to be approve the first time but I truly have no idea!


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