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Purpose and Basic Principles

Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at

2102. Purpose and Basic Principles

2102.1 What is the purpose of SSI?

The basic purpose of SSI is to assure a minimum level of income to people who are aged, blind, or disabled and who have limited income and resources.

2102.2 What are the basic principles of SSI?

There are several basic principles under the SSI program:

  1. Payments are to be made to aged, blind, and disabled people whose income and resources are below specified amounts. This provides objective, measurable standards for determining your eligibility and the amount of payment;

  2. Title XVI determines:

    1. Your right to SSI benefits;

    2. Your benefit amount; and

    3. The conditions under which you are eligible.

      If you disagree with our decision on your case, you can obtain an administrative review of the decision. If you are still not satisfied, you may take court action.

  3. SSI benefits are paid under conditions that protect your dignity as much as possible. [Note: There is a restriction on expenditures of retroactive benefits paid to children under the age of 18 placed and into a dedicated account.]

  4. The eligibility requirements and the Federal income floor are identical everywhere the program operates (see §2103). This provides assurance of a minimum income that States and the District of Columbia may choose to supplement.

  5. Although some of your earned income is counted against the SSI income limit, benefit amounts are not reduced dollar-for-dollar as the result of income from work. Thus, you are encouraged to work if you can. (See §§2173-2179 for a discussion of work incentives.) Blind and disabled recipients, if they are capable, are referred to the appropriate State vocational rehabilitation agencies for services to help them enter the labor market. (See §2176 for more information on work incentives for the blind and disabled.)

Last Revised: Nov. 22, 2004


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