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What is Supplemental Security Income?

On Behalf of | Jan 31, 2021 | Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Adults and children who are blind or disabled may qualify to receive monthly payments through the Supplemental Security Income program. SSI benefits may also be available to people who are not blind or disabled provided they are 65 years of age or older and meet other eligibility criteria.

What distinguishes SSI from other programs administered by Social Security that provide payments to the disabled or benefits to the elderly is the strict limits placed on income and other assets that a claimant may have to qualify for benefits or continue to receive them after qualifying. This article gives you essential information to understand what is SSI, and what benefits you may be entitled to receive through it.

What are some SSI benefits?

If you qualify for the SSI program, you may be entitled to the following benefits:

  • Monthly payments that some states, including New York, supplement by adding to the federal payment.
  • Medical assistance in the form of Medicaid in some states, including New York.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which for years was known as food stamps, may be available in some states, such as New York, to recipients of SSI.

Other benefits may become available to you through your state’s department of social services, including:

    • Personal care.
    • Housekeeping and homemaker services.
    • Personal care.
    • Assistance managing money.
    • Assistance arranging shelter in group residences.

A consultation with an SSI lawyer can offer information about specific benefits available through your state in addition to reviewing with you the SSI benefits payable through the federal government.

What is SSI and How to Qualify for it?

To qualify for SSI benefits available through the Social Security Administration, your income and resources must be extremely limited. The value of the assets you own cannot exceed $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 if you are married. It may not seem like much, but some resources do not count toward the limits to qualify for SSI benefits, including the following:

  • A motor vehicle that is used for personal transportation.
  • Face value of life insurance up to $1,500.
  • A burial fund of up to $1,500. If you are married, an additional burial fund in the same amount is allowed.
  • Value of a burial plot for you and your immediate family.
  • Value of the home, and the land it is located on, that you own and use as your primary residence.

It is a good idea to speak with an SSI attorney about resource limits and exclusions for a clearer picture of how they may affect your claim for benefits. Speaking with the attorney is essential before transferring or selling assets to reduce the value of what you own below the

SSI limits.

Selling or giving away a resource could make you ineligible for SSI benefits for up to 36 months depending upon the value of the asset. If you sell a resource for its market value, the 36-month period of ineligibility may not apply, but that does not mean you will receive benefits. The value of whatever you received in the transaction will be included as a resource and count toward the $2,000 or $3,000 limits.

Benefits for people who work while blind or disabled

If you qualify for benefits through SSI because you are blind or disabled, you may be able to work and continue to receive benefits. Your monthly income cannot exceed the federal benefit rate, which is $794 a month for an individual and $1,191 for a couple in 2021. However, Social Security does not count all of the income you earn.

The first $20 of income you receive each month, whether earned or unearned, is excluded as is the first $65 of earned income, which would be what you make at a job. In addition to the two exclusions, Social Security counts only half of the remaining earnings from working and deducts it from what you receive each month from SSI.

Someone who is blind or disabled may exclude work-related expenses from monthly earnings, so they do not count toward what is deducted from SSI benefits. For example, you may exclude the following work expenses:

  • Taxi fares, and other types of specialized transportation you may need to get to work.
  • Counseling services you may need to help you return to work.
  • Impairment-related work expenses, including assistive technology, special tools, and other accommodations required due to your disability or blindness.

Allowable work expenses reduce your earned income to decrease what is deducted from your monthly SSI benefits.

A New York disability attorney can help

The assistance of an SSI lawyer from the Law Office of Daniel Berger can help to ensure that you receive all of the SS benefits that you may be entitled to receive. Attempting to get through the complex maze of regulations and procedures associated with SSI can be frustrating, but you do not have to do it on your own. Call 718-691-7475 today for a free consultation.