Supplemental Security Income Questions

What Is SSI?

SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, is a needs-based program that provides a monthly check to persons who are blind, elderly, or have a disability. For disabled people who have never worked, or those who haven't worked enough in the recent years to qualify for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), SSI may be the only program available to them. However, the SSI program is tough to qualify for financially, as it has very low income limits and asset limits. SSI is called a "means-tested program," meaning it has nothing to do with work history, but strictly with financial need. To meet the SSI income requirements, you must have less than $2,000 in assets (or $3,000 for a couple) and a very limited income.

Disabled people who are eligible under the income requirements for SSI are also able to receive Medicaid in the state they reside in. Most people who qualify for SSI will also qualify for food stamps, and the amount an eligible person will receive is dependent on where they live and the amount of regular, monthly income they have. SSI benefits will begin on the first of the month when you first submit your application.

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What are the requirements for SSI?

In addition to being aged, blind or disabled, our Supplemental Security Income attorney cautions that you must also meet certain additional requirements to be eligible for benefits:

  • Have limited income and resources
  • Be a U.S. citizen, national or qualified alien
  • Not be absent from the U.S. for one full calendar month or 30 consecutive days
  • Apply for any other cash benefits you are eligible to obtain, including Social Security disability
  • Give the Social Security Administration permission to look into your finances and contact your bank

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How Much Does SSI Pay?

The monthly payment amount for the SSI program is based on the "federal benefit rate" (FBR). In 2013, the FBR is $710 per month for individuals and $1,066 for couples (and the FBR increases annually if there is a Social Security cost-of-living adjustment).

The FBR is the maximum federal monthly SSI payment. Income you receive during the month, minus certain exclusions, can be subtracted from your federal monthly SSI payment. Additionally, state money can be added to your federal monthly payment.

State Supplements

In most states, there is a state supplement, which is added to the federal benefit payment. Every state except Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia adds money to the federal SSI payment. The amount of the state supplement varies between states, from $10 to $200, and also depends on whether you are single or married and whether you are living in a nursing home, assisted living, on your own, or with others. For more information, see our article on the state supplementary payment.

Earned Income Exclusion

If you earn income, you are allowed to deduct a certain amount of the income before it gets subtracted from your SSI payment. You can subtract $65 of your earned income, plus another $20 for earned or unearned income, and then subtract half of the remainder—that is the amount you can deduct from your income. Only the remainder of the income will be subtracted from your SSI payment.

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What Is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance is funded through payroll taxes. SSDI recipients are considered "insured" because they have worked for a certain number of years and have made contributions to the Social Security trust fund in the form of FICA Social Security taxes. SSDI candidates must be younger than 65 and have earned a certain number of "work credits." (To learn more, see our article on SSDI and work credits.) After receiving SSDI for two years, a disabled person will become eligible for Medicare.

Under SSDI, a disabled person's spouse and children dependents are eligible to receive partial dependent benefits, called auxiliary benefits. However, only adults over the age of 18 can receive the SSDI disability benefit.

There is a five-month waiting period for benefits, meaning that the SSA won't pay you benefits for the first five months after you become disabled. The amount of the monthly benefit after the waiting period is over depends on your earnings record, much like the Social Security retirement benefit.

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How long do I have to file an appeal?

For your first level of appeal, also known as a reconsideration, you have 60 days to file. Failure to file within this window can result in a loss of back pay benefits as well as having to re-start the entire application process all over again. Acquiring disability benefits often takes a long amount of time in itself, it cannot be stressed enough that if your claim is initially denied that you do not want to start all over again. Contact our law office if you are looking to file for an appeal, our expert Alabama appeals lawyers can help you every step of the way to make your claim a success.

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How much will it cost me to hire a SSI lawyer?

Our firm works on a contingency fee basis, if we don’t win your case — you won’t pay anything. Set up a no-hassle, no-fee consultation to discuss further specifics of your case. As all Social Security Disability cases are different, there is no simple blanket answer to this question. The Social Security Administration has put in a place a maximum allowed lawyer fee of $6,000 for all SSD and SSI cases. This amount is regulated by the SSA, not by individual law firms. Ultimately each case will need to be individually reviewed in order to assess fees.

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What other benefits can I receive?

If you are able to get SSI benefits, our attorneys and staff may be able to help you obtain other benefits, too:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps)
  • Medicaid
  • Help paying for Medicare

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How do I apply for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213. When you call, you will be given the option of

  1. Going to the social security office to apply for benefits
  2. Having your application taken over the telephone
  3. Apply on the internet as

If you choose to go the social security office, the person at the 800 number will schedule an appointment for you and give you directions to the social security office. If you want to apply by phone, you will be given a date and an approximate time to expect a phone call from someone at the social security office who will take your application over the phone.

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