Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a government program that provides a monthly cash benefit for blind people and for disabled children and adults that have limited income and limited resources. The average monthly payment is $540, according to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) August 2016 Statistical Report. To recover these benefits, applicants must meet strict SSI disability qualifications.
Below, we briefly explain the basic criteria. For more detailed information or for help filing for benefits, call our SSI lawyers at Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer Co., L.P.A. for a consultation: 419-843-6663.
Who is eligible for SSI?
There are multiple, detailed requirements to obtain SSI benefits, but in short, the basic eligibility qualifications include the following:
- You over the age of 65, blind, or disabled.
- You are a U.S. citizen or national, or a legal resident alien in good standing.
- You are a resident of one of the 50 U.S. states.
- You are not institutionalized (e.g., at a hospital or prison) at the government’s expense.
- You have limited income and limited resources. (We will discuss this in a little greater detail in another section.)
What does the SSA mean by “disability”?
One of the primary SSI qualifications is to prove that you meet the SSA’s definition of disabled. How does the SSA define disability? The Administration will consider you disabled if you have medically determinable physical or mental impairment that:
- Prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity (for children, the impairment must result in marked and severe functional limitations); and
- Is expected to last a year or longer or result in death.
The SSA maintains a Listing of Impairments that describes impairments for each major body system that the SSA assumes will be severe enough to prevent an individual from doing any substantial gainful activity (SGA).
There are separate listings for children and adults. If you have an impairment that is on the list and meet the severity requirements for the listing, the SSA will likely consider you disabled.
If your impairment is one the SSA’s Compassionate Allowances list, your condition will always qualify for benefits.
However, it is important to note that even if you do not meet the exact criteria for a listing, this does not necessarily disqualify you. If you can show the SSA that your condition(s) is so disabling that it prevents you from doing SGA, the Administration may still determine you as disabled.
Determining if you meet disability criteria might seem straightforward, but it is rarely so. Our team can look into your records and determine if you meet the definition of disabled and, if not, what other evidence you may need.
What are the income limits to qualify for SSI?
As aforementioned, SSI is for those with a limited income. In order to collect benefits, your income must fall below a certain threshold. The allotted threshold changes annually to accommodate cost of living adjustments. In 2016, the maximum monthly income you can have and still qualify for SSI is $733; in 2017, the limit will be $735.
However, those numbers are somewhat misleading. The SSA does not count various sources of income when calculating your monthly income.
For example, while the SSA counts your self-employment earnings, wages, Social Security benefits, pensions, and unemployment benefits as your income, there are over two dozen types and sources of income that it does not count. Income tax refunds, home energy assistance, and the first $20 you earn a month are just a few of those that are exempt.
What are the qualifications regarding resources?
The SSA specifies that the value of your assets must also fall below a certain threshold in order to qualify for SSI. Resources include not only cash you have on-hand, but also your:
- Bank accounts
- Stocks and savings bonds
- Land that you own
- Extra vehicles
- Life insurance
- Other things of relative value that you own that you could convert to cash and use for food and shelter
In some instances, the SSA might credit some of your spouse’s or parents’ resources.
The SSA notes, “Federal law doesn’t require support by relatives. But, in deciding whether someone can get SSI, we consider a husband and wife who live together to be sharing their income and resources, and a child to be sharing their parents’ income and resources.”
The current SSI limits for resources are $2,000 for individuals/children and $3,000 for couples. But similar to income exemptions, there are various resources that the SSA does not count toward this limit, such as:
- Your home
- One vehicle
- Your personal effects, e.g., your wedding rings
- Your household goods
- Burial plots for you and your family
- Life insurance policies valued at less than $1,500
- Grants, scholarships, or gifts that you have set aside to pay educational expenses for nine months after receipt
Find out if you meet SSI disability qualifications. Get a Free Evaluation.
The above merely serves as a broad overview of the qualifications for SSI. Before applying for benefits, it is a good idea to have a disability lawyer review your case and see if you meet all the specific requirements. A lawyer can help you gather the medical evidence necessary to prove your disability, as well.
Our firm, Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer Co., L.P.A., offers free SSI case evaluations for disabled persons in Ohio.
We have been assisting people with their legal needs for over 60 years, and would be happy to see how we may be able to help you, too.
Call us at 419-843-6663 and schedule a no-obligation evaluation at your convenience with one of our caring, qualified disability lawyers.