Many disabled workers understand that Social Security Disability benefits should be there for them if they suffer from a condition that prevents them from performing substantial gainful work activity. What many people don't know is that there are actually two different types of disability benefits offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). When an individual is determined to be disabled by the SSA and they have earned enough work credits, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits kick in. What happens, however, when an individual is unable to obtain SSDI benefits due to a lack of work credits or if their SSDI payments are not enough to make ends meet? In cases such as these, SSI benefits may be the answer. For help with your SSI claim, fill out the Free Case Evaluation above.
The following information will help you understand how to qualify for SSI payments.
Who Qualifies for SSI?
SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income. Those who are eligible to be awarded SSI include one of the following:
- 65 years or older;
- is blind with a central visual acuity for distance of 20/200 or less in your better eye with use of a correcting lens;
- is disabled.
The other features include having a limited income and resources.
The applicant is also required to be the following:
- a U.S. citizen or national, or in one of certain categories of aliens;
- a resident in one of the country’s 50 states, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands;
- has not been out of the country for a complete calendar month or for 30 consecutive days or more;
- is not held an institution (such as a hospital or prison) at the government’s expense;
- has not applied for any other cash benefits or payments for which he or she may be eligible such as, pensions or Social Security benefits;
- has given permission for the SSA to contact any financial institution and request any financial records about you.
Determining Whether or Not a Disability Exists
In order to qualify for Supplement Security Income payments, you must be found to be disabled by the SSA. The SSA publishes a “Blue Book” of medical listings detailing the criteria required to qualify for disability benefits as a result of a disabling condition. If your disability meets one of these published medical listings and the criteria set forth in that listing, you will likely qualify for SSI disability benefits. If, however, your condition is not included in the SSA's Blue Book you will need to prove that your condition meets the criteria of one of these listings or that it results in a complete inability to work due to the limitations placed on you.
The Meaning of Being Disabled as a Child
If you are under age 18 you may be considered disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment, (including an emotional or learning problem) that severely limits your ability to function normally, may result in death or has lasted or is likely to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.
The Meaning of Being Disabled as an Adult
If you are age 18 or older you may be considered “disabled” if you have been diagnosed with a physical or mental impairment (including an emotional or learning problem) which means you cannot work to earn a living, the condition may last for at least 12 months or lead to death.
If You Are Not Disabled
If you are not disabled, you may still qualify for SSI payments. Individuals who are over the age of 65 may also qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits if their income and assets are below the threshold set forth by the SSA.
Income and Asset Limits
Unlike SSDI benefits, you do not need a certain number of work credits to qualify for SSI payments. The SSI program is a needs-based program. As such, you will have to prove that your assets and household income are below a certain threshold in order to qualify for these payments from the SSA.
In order to qualify for SSI payments, you must not own more than $2,000 in assets (excluding the home in which you live and one vehicle with a market value of $4,500 or less). If you are married, this asset level increases to $3,000. Your income must also be below the acceptable SSI thresholds, which will vary depending on your particular living situation and the state in which you live.
If you meet the income limits and asset limits that have been established by the SSA and if you are determined to be disabled or are over the age of 65, you may qualify for monthly SSI payments.
In some cases, an individual who receives SSDI payments may also receive SSI payments if the SSDI payments received by the applicant are their sole source of income and are below the income limits set forth by the SSA.
Visiting your Local Office
In order to begin receiving SSI payments from the SSA, you must submit an application for benefits. The best way to do this is to visit your local Social Security Office and discuss what will be needed to process your application and prove your eligibility status for Supplement Security Income benefits.
When attending your appointment at the Social Security Office, make sure you bring as much information as possible so that the office can process your claim for benefits as quickly as possible. Items that will be needed commonly include your Social Security Card, your birth certificate, your landlord's information or mortgage statements, bank statements and any proof of income or assets (or lack thereof). Also provide the SSA with as much medical information as you can if you are applying for SSI benefits due to a disability. This will mean including a complete copy of your medical records, the names of your doctor as well as contact information for the hospitals and clinics that you have been seen at.
Your SSI Claim
If you are looking to file an SSI claim, you should strongly consider consulting a Social Security Attorney. Over 60% of initial SSI claims are denied. Oftentimes claims are denied due to the fact that the paperwork is filled out incorrectly or necessary medical documentation is missing. An attorney will be able to help you throughout the application process. If your initial application for SSI benefits is denied by the SSA, you do have a right to appeal the decision. Your disability attorney will be able to help you through the appeals process as well and represent you at your disability hearing.