When you are disabled or reach 65—and have limited resources—an income should be among the least of your worries! That’s where Supplemental Security Income (SSI) comes in: this program enacted by the US government over 40 years ago provides benefits to those people who meet certain eligibility requirements. Unlike Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you are not required to earn a certain number of work credits to qualify for SSI.
Who Is Eligible?
In order to be eligible for SSI, there are a few requirements you must meet. The top-level requirements include being aged, blind, or disabled: you must either be an adult with a disability, a child with a disability, or be over 65 (no disability required). To qualify for SSI as an adult with a disability, you must be a US citizen between the ages of 18 to 65 who has never been married and is also applying for SSDI benefits at the same time. To be eligible as a child with a disability, the individual in question must be under 18 (or 22, if a student regularly attending school) and suffering from blindness or some other mental or physical impairment. To be eligible as an aged individual, you must be 65 years old or older. In all cases, you must have limited income and resources available for your support. Some non-citizens may also be eligible to receive SSI benefits if they meet the aged, blind, or disabled prerequisites.
Limited Income and Resources
When the Social Security Administration considers your income to decide if you’re eligible for SSI, they only count certain forms of income. They consider your earned income such as wages or royalties; unearned income such as pensions or Social Security benefits; in-kind income such as food or shelter you receive for free; and your deemed income, such as income from your spouse or parents. They do not include income types such as SNAP benefits, disaster assistance, tax refunds, or from many other specific sources. Broadly, the amount of your SSI benefit payment will be calculated by deducting your countable income from the SSI Federal benefit rate.
Your resources are considered limited when they amount to $2000 or less for an individual and $3000 or less for a couple. The Social Security Administration counts your available cash, stocks, vehicles (if you have more than one), life insurance over certain amounts and a number of other things as resources. They may also count a portion of a spouse’s or parent’s resources when evaluating your case. They will not include your home, land, scholarship, or one vehicle if it’s used to transport yourself or a member of your household—among a laundry list of other resources.
Roadblocks to Benefits
There can be many roadblocks on the path to being approved for SSI benefits, and they’re not always clearly understood by applicants. There are obvious denials—for example, you are not eligible for SSI if you have been convicted of a crime, earn too much income, or the Social Security Administration has difficulties in regular and necessary communication with you. Then there are trickier denials: you may be denied because their initial evaluation does not consider your physical or mental impairment disabling enough. Or perhaps you refused to release all of your medical records to them for review, or they believe you failed to follow your doctor’s treatment plan for your condition (without cause).
The fact is that the majority of people are denied SSI benefits on their first attempt. Don’t be discouraged if this happens to you! You have the right to appeal that decision—and you should have an experienced lawyer in your corner to help with the SSI appeals process. The rules and regulations governing SSI are extensive and complicated; it’s a full-time job to comprehend them all and make them work for your case instead of against it.
In fact, it’s my full-time job. When applying for the SSI benefits you deserve, don’t go it alone. Call my office at 216-600-0124 first.