What is MSA?

Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA) is a program that gives an additional cash benefit to people who are aged, blind, or disabled and are either getting SSI or would be eligible for SSI except that they have too much income. MSA gives a monthly benefit in addition (or as a supplement) to SSI. Most people who get SSI also get a monthly MSA benefit. If you do not get SSI, then your income and assets must be within MSA's guidelines in order to qualify.

To find out if you qualify for MSA, you can ask a worker at your local county human services agency. Most people who get SSI qualify for MSA. However, you do not automatically get MSA even if you are getting SSI or other benefits. You must apply separately for MSA.

Who can get MSA?

To get MSA, you must:

  • Be a Minnesota resident
  • Be 18 years old or older
  • Be blind, disabled, or elderly under Social Security rules

Can I get MSA even if I don’t get SSI?

Yes. Most people who get MSA are also getting an SSI benefit, but it is possible to get MSA even if your SSI benefit is zero. You must meet all the other requirements for MSA, including the disability and asset requirements, and have countable income in a certain range.

Example: Jack is single and living alone, with $797 in income from SSDI and $800 in countable resources. SSI’s $20 general income exclusion leaves him with $777 in countable income. Because his countable income is above FBR ($771), he gets no SSI payment. However he does qualify for an MSA benefit of $55. So Jack will get $0 in SSI but $55 in MSA. His total monthly income is $797 + $55 = $852.

What is the MSA assistance standard?

Minnesota’s assistance standard is the minimum amount of money the state believes that a person needs in order to pay for basic expenses. Your assistance standard depends on whether you are an individual or an eligible couple, and on whether you live alone or with others. The assistance standard is adjusted each year for the cost of living.

  • If you live alone, the assistance standard is $832 per month. SSI's maximum benefit if you live on your own is $771/month, so your monthly MSA payment, if you have no special needs expenses, is $832 – ($771-$20) = $81.
  • If you are part of an eligible couple and the two of you live on your own, the assistance standard is $1,248. SSI's maximum benefit for a couple living on their own is $1,157, so the monthly MSA benefit for a couple that has no special needs expenses is $1,248 – ($1,157-$20) = $111.
    • Note: If you are part of an eligible couple and live with others, the MSA assistance standard is $835.34. Because MSA and SSI classify living situations differently, some eligible couples living with others get SSI, but don't get MSA.
  • People living in certain residential facilities get $102/month for personal needs and clothing.

What are special needs expenses?

A special needs expense is money you pay for a specific need, like a special diet or an emergency. Special needs expenses are added to your MSA assistance standard when it is used to figure out your MSA payment. Only people in certain specific categories can qualify for special needs expenses. All special needs expenses must be fully documented with receipts or other proof.

Special needs expenses can cover one-time needs, or ongoing monthly costs. Some examples are:

  • People on medically prescribed diets can get an additional $29 - $240/month
  • Some people might pay fees to a representative payee who collects their SSI payments. These fees count as a special needs expense, up to $25
  • Some people have a legally appointed guardian or conservator to take care of their money or other arrangements. You can count fees paid for these services of up to $100 as a special needs expense
  • If you’re moving from an institution or mental health residential program into the community, you can qualify for MSA Housing Assistance of $192. This only applies if your shelter cost is more than 40% of your income.
  • You may be able to get a special needs payment for needed home repairs or for furniture and appliances. You’ll need to get approval from the county agency before paying for these things
  • Some extra payments can be approved in emergencies, if you don’t have basic need items, like food and shelter, and that lack is dangerous to your health or safety

How much is the monthly MSA grant?

The amount of your MSA grant depends on where you live, who you live with, any special needs expenses you may have, whether you’re getting an SSI check and, if not, the amount of your countable income. An individual living alone, with no special needs expenses, and getting an SSI check, will usually get $81/month in MSA.

How do I apply for MSA?

You can apply for MSA online at ApplyMN or by filing a paper application. You can also apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at the same time.

What happens to my MSA if I go to work?

If you have income from work, you may or may not continue to be eligible for SSI. This depends on how much you are earning. If you still get some amount of SSI, then you will also be eligible for a MSA benefit. If you stop getting SSI, you may or may not still be eligible to get MSA. It depends on the level of your income.

For Social Security, earned income from work becomes part of your countable income. As your countable income goes up, your SSI benefit goes down. Roughly speaking, every extra $2 in earned income lowers your SSI by only $1. Once your SSI has been reduced to zero, additional countable income reduces your MSA grant. Get more information about how the SSI program counts your income.

Is there a resource limit for MSA?

MSA has a $10,000 asset limit. Any real estate you own (including the home you live in) and one car don’t count toward your resource limit.

Note: If your disability began before you turned 26, you can open an ABLE account where you can save up to $15,000 each year and not have it counted by MSA. Learn more about ABLE accounts.