Millions of people across the country suffer from long-term physical or mental disabilities that keep them from working. Supplemental Security Income is a federal income supplement program that gives money to those who are disabled and can demonstrate financial need to receive benefits.
These benefits cover basic needs such as food and shelter. The maximum federal SSI benefit changes every year, but the maximum amount for 2017 is $735 for a single person and $1,103 for a couple. To find out who qualifies for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), talk to a Pittsburgh Social Security disability attorney at Berger and Green: 412-661-1400.
Who qualifies for SSI?
Social Security created the SSI program to help people with little to no income and resources who are:
To be disabled, claimants must meet the severity criteria for a certain condition or prove that their condition is so severe that it keeps them from performing work-related functions such as sitting, standing, or squatting.
The condition must also have lasted 12 months, or be expected to last 12 months or result in death.
You may qualify for SSI benefits as a blind person if:
- Your central visual acuity is 20/200 or less in your better eye while using a correcting lens; or
- The widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no more than 20 degrees in your better eye (i.e., visual field limitation).
Adults over the age of 65 may qualify for SSI benefits even if they do not meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of total disability.
Do I have to meet any other criteria?
Yes, once you meet one of the above criteria, you must satisfy the following:
Citizenship, Alien, and Residency Requirements
In addition to fitting one or more of the above categories, applicants must meet all citizenship, alien, and residency requirements to qualify.
Generally, you must be a legal resident of the United States. You must also be a U.S. citizen, national, or “qualified alien.” You will not qualify if you are absent from the country for 30 consecutive days or more.
You are a qualified alien if you fall into one of these categories:
- Lawfully admitted for Permanent Residence
- Granted conditional entry under Section 203(a)(7) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
- Paroled into the U.S. under Section 212(d)(5) of the INA for at least one year
- Refugee admitted under Section 207
- Granted asylum under Section 208
- Deportation withheld under Section 243(h)
- A “Cuban or Haitian entrant” of the Refugee Education Assistance Act
Limited Income and Resources
To determine whether an applicant qualifies for SSI, the SSA will consider your countable income and resources. Adults under the age of 65 must show that they are completely disabled and do not have enough to support themselves.
Individuals who earn over $735 and married couples who earn over $1,103 are not eligible for SSI. For income, the SSA will consider money from a variety of sources including:
- Money earned at work
- Social Security benefits
- Money from family and friends
- Veterans disability benefits
- Workers’ compensation
- Free food or shelter
- Unemployment benefits
The SSA does not count various other sources of income including:
- The first $20 of monthly income
- The first $65 of earnings and one-half of earnings over $65 received in a month
- Food stamps
- Income tax refunds
- Medical care
- Grants and scholarships used for education
- Cash loans
As for resources, you must own no more than $2,000 in countable assets to qualify for SSI. Married people may own up to $3,000 in joint assets. The SSA will consider following when valuing assets:
- Bank accounts
- Personal property
- Land that you are not living on
- Life insurance
- Any assets that you can convert into cash for food and shelter
However, there are many items that are not countable resources. The following are items we will not count toward your resource limit:
- The house you live in
- One of your vehicles if you use it to transport you or a household member
- Household goods
- Personal effects (e.g., wedding and engagement rings)
- Business property
- Burial plots or funds of up to $1,500 for each of you
- Life insurance policies (face value must be $1,500 or less per person)
People that exceed the resource limit may still be able to recover benefits if they agree to sell some of their countable resources.
Will I qualify for other benefits if I qualify for SSI?
Maybe. Both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and SSI are intended to help financially support disabled people who cannot work. However, the program requirements are slightly different. SSDI requires you to have worked prior to your disability in a job that collected Social Security. If you have enough work credits, you can qualify for SSDI.
Many people qualify for both SSI and SSDI, so it is in your best interest to apply for both at the same time.
When should I file for SSI?
You should apply for benefits as soon as your condition becomes disabling. However, remember that your condition must last at least a year to qualify.
You can recover back pay for the time it took the SSA to make its decision.
Call the Social Security disability attorneys at Berger and Green for help.
If you are disabled and struggling financially, SSI benefits can help you provide for yourself and your family as you learn to live with your disability. However, the application process can be confusing and time-consuming.
Fortunately, the attorneys at Berger and Green are available to help you with every step of the process. We will ensure you submit your paperwork in a timely fashion and that you have the medical records, bank statements, asset records, and other documentation needed to prove your case.
Hiring an attorney can greatly improve your chances of receiving SSI benefits. Disabled individuals and couples who are unable to work and have a financial need can call Berger and Green at 412-661-1400 to find out more about applying for SSI benefits.