What You Need to Know Before Applying for SSI

supplemental security income

If you are unable or struggling to work due to a disability or health condition, one of the best ways to improve your financial situation and get peace of mind is to apply for social security disability benefit, or SSI. SSI is awarded based on your medical and financial situation, and there are a few key things to know before you decide to fill out the application. Your application is likely to be rejected if you are currently earning over the limit or you own assets that are above the limit of $2,000, which is important to keep in mind. Getting SSI when you need it is not always easy, so it’s important to keep the following factors in mind when making your application to improve your chances. 

What is SSI?

SSI or Supplemental Security Income is a needs-based benefits program designed for low-income individuals who are registered blind, 65 and over, or otherwise disabled. To receive this benefit, you must apply to the Social Security Administration to demonstrate your need and request the assistance. There are several factors that will be considered by the SSA when determining whether or not you are eligible for SSI including the severity of your medical condition or disability, how able you are to work, the amount of income that you receive, and the resources and assets that you own. 

The SSA will determine whether or not you are able to receive SSI benefits after assessing your situation. If you are eligible, you will begin to receive a monthly payment of funds from the government, which is a standard amount regardless of where you live. You may also be able to apply for additional benefits from your state depending on state Social Security laws. 

How SSI is Determined

It is unfortunately almost impossible to figure out for certain whether or not you are going to be eligible for SSI, since the rules are very complex. And you can’t simply call Social Security to ask questions because the advisors who answer the phone aren’t trained in the complex details and are usually there only to answer general queries. They do have some information on the Social Security website that you might find useful; however, once again, it won’t tell you whether or not you are definitely going to be able to get the benefit. 

The Policies to Be Aware Of

One of the most important things to know before you apply is that there are two different financial policies for SSI. These are income policies and resource policies. It is often easy to confuse the two, but they are completely different, so taking the time to learn about what each one covers and how to differentiate them will help you make the right application. If you have been getting confusing information, it’s probably because whoever is giving you advice is mixing the two policies up. 

Resource Policies

If you want to apply for SSI, you are only allowed a certain number of resources, which refers to the money that you have, and assets that you own. In most cases, one house, car, general household items and certain types of trusts are not counted as assets. If you are married, joint assets will usually be counted, and if you live with your parents, their assets may also be taken into account. The resource limit is $2,000 if you are a single person and $3,000 if you are married and live with your spouse. Resource limits are more complicated for children, so it’s important to get specialized advice if you want to apply for SSI on behalf of a disabled child. Social security will stop counting parental assets as a resource once a child turns 18, even if the child still lives at home. 

Income Policies

Income refers to the money that you are paid, either from working or other sources. The income rules for claiming SSI are quite complicated; however, there is a limit which is currently set at earning $1310 per month or more from employment. However, the way that this is calculated means that you can still earn some income while claiming benefits; your benefits will simply be reduced to accommodate it. 

It is worth bearing in mind that some forms of income do not affect SSI, including student and personal loans, food stamps, gifts placed in a Special Needs Trust, LIHEAP utility assistance, and some kinds of financial gifts. If you have income that does count, your disability payments are likely to be lower, and may be reduced over time if your income increases. You should count any income that is earned by you and your spouse. Parental income will be counted for applicants who are under the age of eighteen. 

How Your Spouse Can Affect Your Income

Being married can affect your income and your eligibility for SSI. For example, a single person might not be eligible for SSI if they earn over a certain amount of money. On the other hand, somebody who is a sole provider for their spouse might have an increased chance of getting SSI because the money that they earn is not being used to only support themselves. If some of the money that you earn is used by your spouse, be sure to mention this in your application for SSI. 

Getting Legal Help

If you have been denied SSI or are having trouble getting this benefit and believe that you should be eligible, it might be worth considering getting legal assistance from an experienced disability lawyer. Working with a disability lawyer can help you make sense of all the different rules and regulations that go into applying for and being awarded SSI and help you have your application accepted. A good lawyer will have a solid understanding of the application process and experience representing hundreds of cases like yours in federal court. 

If you have a medical condition or disability that makes it difficult or impossible for you to work, SSI can help. However, there are several things to understand before you apply for this benefit.