Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program offered through the Social Security Administration (SSA) to help those who have a low income and low resources and also suffer from an impairment that prevents them from working.
If you need assistance determining if you qualify for these benefits, the disability lawyers at Berger and Green can help. We can also represent you if the SSA denied your initial application for SSI. We know what the SSA’s representatives need to see to approve your claim and can ensure they have the access to all the necessary medical documentation. Call us at 412-661-1400 to schedule a free consultation.
Are There Age Requirements for the SSI Program?
The SSA does have age requirements necessary for benefit approval. There are three ways you can meet these criteria:
- Be age 65 or older;
- Be under age 65 but suffer a qualifying disabling impairment; or
- Suffer from qualifying blindness, no matter your age.
What Counts as a Qualifying Impairment?
In general, you need to suffer from an impairment or medical condition that:
- Prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity; and
- Has lasted or will last for at least a year; or
- Will likely result in your death.
The SSA only looks at total disabilities for SSI and other disability programs. This means you must be unable to work your current or previous job, any recent job you held, or any job that requires no special skills.
In some cases, the SSA’s disability determination examiner will use the agency’s Blue Book, or listing of impairments, to determine if you suffer a qualifying disability. In other cases, you will rely on your residual functional capacity—which is an SSA-assigned assessment of your skills—to show you cannot work.
One of the most important aspects of your application is the contact information for your doctors and specialists. This is because the disability examiner will request copies of your medical records and other documentation of your physical or mental impairment that prevents you from working. They expect to see a clear picture of your diagnosis, treatment, and how the illness or injury affects you through this medical documentation.
Does the SSI Program Have Income Requirements?
The SSDI program differs from the SSI program in regards to its income requirement. While SSDI only considers the money you earn from work when they calculate your income, the qualifications for SSI are much more inclusive. This is because SSI is specifically designed to help those with an extremely low income make ends meet.
To determine who qualifies as low income, the SSA sets an income limit each year. For 2017, you cannot make a monthly income higher than $735 for an individual or $1,103 for a couple to qualify for SSI. That amount includes:
- Money you earn from a job, self-employment, or other work;
- Income from investments;
- Rental income;
- Social Security benefits;
- Unemployment benefits;
- Veteran’s benefits;
- Gifts from family or friends; and
- Resources from family, including free living space.
If you make more than the SSA’s income limit, you may still qualify for SSI. That is because the SSA allows for some income exemptions and exclusions in specific circumstances. Our attorneys can help you understand what you must count toward the program’s income limit and whether you qualify for any exemptions.
Are There Other Wealth-Related Requirements I Must Meet to Qualify for SSI?
In addition to a limited income, you must meet strict limits on your resources to draw SSI benefits. In 2017, you cannot own resources worth more than $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple. The resources the SSA counts include:
- Checking and savings accounts;
- Property other than the home you live in;
- Multiple vehicles;
- Valuable collections; and
- Life insurance policies that have a cash surrender value.
There are some resources exempt from the SSA’s review. This may mean you qualify despite having more resources than the strict limit. Some of the resources they do not count include:
- Your home;
- Household goods;
- Prepaid burial spaces or burial funds up to $1,500;
- Life insurance policies worth less than $1,500;
- One car, truck, or other vehicle necessary for your transportation;
- Social Security back pay or retroactive pay; and
- Scholarships, grants, fellowships, and other funding for education.
We can help you determine which resources count and how to ensure the SSA does not count resources such as your tools for work. We will take every step necessary to get you the benefits you deserve.
It is also important to note that you must be careful in how you liquidate resources if you plan to apply for SSI. If you gift items to friends or family or sell them at a discount, the SSA may bar you from receiving benefits for as long as three years. We can offer advice about how to avoid this type of situation.
Does the SSI Program Have Any Other Requirements?
Many people who worked in the last decade before their disability occurred qualify for either retirement benefits or the SSDI program. These programs both require you to have worked and paid into Social Security before you suffered your disability. We can also help you identify other programs that might offer additional benefits, including Medicaid and other health-related programs.
How Can I Contact a Disability Attorney?
At Berger and Green, we can help you understand the qualifications for all disability programs, including SSI. If the SSA already denied your initial claim for benefits, we can also represent you during the appeals process and fight for the full benefits you deserve.
Contact the skilled attorneys at Berger and Green today at 412-661-1400 to schedule a free consultation. We handle all cases on contingency, meaning you owe us nothing until you receive the benefits you need.