Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- What is SSI?
- How are Social Security disability benefits and SSI payments different?
- How will my income affect my SSI payments?
- What are resources and how do they affect my SSI payments?
- How does marriage affect my SSI my benefits?
- What is monthly wage reporting?
- What are state supplementary payments for SSI?
- What is a plan to achieve self support (PASS?)
- Can I file an appeal if my application for SSI is denied?
- Do I need an attorney to apply for SSI?
Q: What is SSI?
Supplemental Security Income is a disability benefit designed for those who have not worked during their lifetime, or have not worked 5 of the last 10 years. It is only available to those who are disabled, over the age of 65 or blind, and children under the age of 18 with qualifying physical or mental impairments.
Social Security disability benefits are financed by employment taxes and are generally available to those who have paid into the Social Security system. These benefits are paid to eligible workers and their families, based on the worker’s earnings. SSI, on the other hand, is funded by general taxes and is designed for those with limited financial resources. SSI is subject to strict income and asset limits.
The SSA will consider a number of sources of income to determine whether you are eligible for SSI, including earned income, unearned income, in-kind income and deemed income. There are a number of factors that the SSA considers in determining whether these sources of income will affect your eligibility for SSI.
Resources are anything that you own that can pay for food and shelter, including savings and checking accounts, personal property and non-owner occupied real estate. A home that is a primary residence, and certain other assets, are not included in the determination of resources. Generally, the limit is $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a married couple.
If you get married while you are receiving SSI, your spouse's income and resources may reduce your SSI benefit. Additionally, if you and your spouse both get SSI, your benefit amount will change from an individual rate to a couple’s rate.
If you work while receiving SSI, you must report your wages to Social Security at the beginning of each month, and these earnings may or may not affect your SSI payment.
Most states, including California, supplement payments to SSI. The amount of this supplement varies from state to state, in a range from $10 to $400. Additionally, the amount of the state supplement depends on your marital status and living arrangements.
PASS is an SSI program that is designed to help individuals with disabilities return to work. If you receive SSI, the plan allows you to set aside income for things you own to pay for items and services that are needed to achieve a specific work goal. PASS can include material to start a business, equipment and tools, educational expenses, transportation, uniforms and other items or services you need to reach an employment goal.
PASS can help you pay these costs while maintaining the SSI benefit (PASS is excluded from the income calculation). Money can be set aside for purchases, installment payments and down payments for a vehicle, wheelchair, or a computer, if needed, to achieve a work goal.
If you were denied SSI benefits for medical or non-medical reasons, you can file an appeal online through the SSA and provide documents electronically to support your claim.
Engaging the services of an experienced disability benefits attorney increases the likelihood that your SSI claim will be approved. An attorney can help determine that you meet the income and asset requirements, assist with the application process, and handle an appeal if a claim is denied.