Supplemental Security Income is a federally funded program offering financial assistance for individuals with limited resources and income to adults 65 years of age or older. It also provides benefits to blind or disabled adults and children.
You may apply even without having a work history, which is one of the benefits of SSI over other disability programs, such as Social Security disability insurance. The information that follows offers a brief overview of the SSI program, guidance about how to apply for SSI, and how an SSI attorney can be of assistance at all stages of the application or appeal process.
What is SSI?
Unlike other disability programs with eligibility based on proof of a disabling medical condition that prevents a person from working, you must be disabled and meet strict income and financial resource standards to qualify for SSI. The assets, which the Social Security Administration refers to as “resources,” cannot exceed $2,000 for a single person or $3,000 for a couple.
Resources include the following:
- Cash on hand and bank accounts.
- U.S. savings bonds, stocks, and other types of investment accounts.
- Real estate.
- Cars and other types of vehicles.
Some assets may be excluded as resources for purposes of determining eligibility for SSI. Some of the common exclusions include the following:
- Your primary residence.
- A car that is used for personal transportation needs.
- Burial plots for you or members of your immediate family.
- $1,500 or less in funds designated for use for your burial and up to an additional $1,500 as a burial fund for a spouse.
The money you receive as wages from employment, Social Security benefits, or pension income counts as income. Your monthly income cannot exceed the federal benefit rate, which includes monthly income limits for SSI and the monthly maximum payment for SSI. If your income exceeds the federal benefit rate, which is $794 a month in 2021 or $1,191 for couples, you may not qualify for benefits. However, it gets complicated because not all income counts.
According to Social Security guidelines, the following may be excluded from your monthly income in determining eligibility for SSI:
- The first $20 of income regardless of whether it is earned or unearned.
- The first $65 of income earned from employment.
- Half of the amount of employment income over the first $65.
A portion of the income earned by your spouse may be taken into consideration in deciding whether you qualify for SSI. If you are applying for benefits on behalf of a child, Social Security takes into consideration part of the income and resources of parents of children younger than 18 years of age.
When to apply for SSI?
Social Security does not charge an application fee, so apply for SSI as soon as you believe that you or your child may qualify for benefits. A delay may cause you to lose money because the date you file an application becomes the effective date for payment of benefits once it is approved. If you call to schedule an appointment to apply for benefits, Social Security will use the date of the call as the effective date as long as you file an application within 60 days from the date of the call.
How to apply for SSI?
Disabled or blind adults may be able to submit their applications online. Someone from Social Security will review the submission and contact the applicant to gather any additional information that may be required to complete it.
An online option is also available for parents or others submitting applications for benefits on behalf of a blind or disabled child, but it is a two-stage process. The first stage is the completion of a Child Disability Report that may be completed and submitted online. The second stage involves a phone call with a representative from Social Security who will collect information to complete the application process.
Adults, 65 years of age or older, who are not blind or disabled, do not have access to an online option to apply for benefits. Instead, the application may be completed over the phone with a representative from Social Security. Depending upon COVID-19 precautions that may be in place, an appointment can be made to meet with a representative and complete an application at a Social Security office.
What you need in order to apply for SSI?
Social Security recommends that you have the following information or documentation available to facilitate completion of an application for SSI benefits:
- Proof of U.S. citizenship or that you are eligible as a noncitizen.
- A birth certificate or other proof of age.
- Information about income and assets.
- A bank account and other financial institution records.
- The names, addresses, and phone numbers of health care providers for individuals applying for benefits as blind or disabled.
Do not delay applying for benefits just because you may be unable to locate records or information.
Contact an SSI lawyer for help
The assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced SSI lawyer can facilitate the SSI application process. An SSI attorney can anticipate issues that may arise and address them before they can delay or otherwise affect your application.