What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

When people apply for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA), typically they are thinking of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). However, not everyone with a disability may necessarily qualify for SSDI benefits, especially if they are young or have not been able to work for a long time. But for people who do not qualify for SSDI, they still may be able to receive benefits through Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which can help with covering basic expenses in a manner like SSDI.

SSDI and SSI are both programs administered through the Social Security Administration, which are designed to assist people who can no longer work due to a disability. They are intended to cover basic needs such as food and rent, such that people who become disabled do not need to worry they will be forced into homelessness as a result. In the case of both SSDI and SSI, you must demonstrate to the SSA that you have a physical or psychological disability that prevents you from working before you can qualify for benefits.

Where SSDI and SSI differ, however, is in the economic qualifications you must meet before you can obtain them. For SSDI, that means obtaining a certain number of “work credits” by earning income through a paying job, be it working for a company or being self-employed. For SSI, however, you can only qualify by making less than a certain amount of income per year.

Calculating your income to determine if you qualify for SSI benefits is not a simple task, however. Applicants cannot make more than $783 a month as individuals, or $1,175 per month as a couple as income. Your “income” includes money you earn from work, anything you receive from government benefits (including Social Security benefits), any pension you may have, and the value of any additional assistance you receive from others, including food and shelter.

However, there are many exceptions to those income requirements that can substantially affect whether you qualify. For example, here are just some of the kinds of income that do not count towards the income you make per month:

  • The first $20 you make in a month does not count.
  • The first $65 of earnings, as well as half of all earnings after that $65.
  • The value of any Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits
  • Income tax refunds
  • Needs-based assistance from a state or Native American tribe
  • Grants, scholarships, federal assistance, or loans used for tuition or education
  • Disaster insurance payments
  • Money someone else pays for your bills not related to food or shelter (i.e. medical expenses, phone bills)
  • Up to $1,900 a month or $7,670 a year for students under the age of 22.

There are also restrictions about how much you can own in assets while still qualifying for SSI benefits. In total, an individual cannot have more than $2,000 in assets and still qualify for SSI, while a married couple cannot have more than $3,000 in assets. However, even this has major exceptions, as a family car and a single home you live in does not count towards those “assets.”

As a result, calculating whether you qualify for SSI can be complicated and require a fair bit of math. Navigating the complex bureaucracy and calculations around qualifying for SSI can be difficult, and it is probably not something you want to do on your own. It is for this reason that you should contact an attorney with experience in handling disability claims to help you receive the benefits you are entitled to.

If you or a loved one need assistance applying for SSDI or SSI benefits, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced Social Security Disability benefits lawyer. The lawyers at Sullivan & Kehoe, LLP have over 50 years of combined experience between its attorneys and are available to you or your loved one in obtaining Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits. To schedule a consultation with our New York Social Security Disability benefits lawyers, call (631) 823-7155.

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