What Is Supplemental Security Income?
If you are elderly, blind, or disabled and have limited income and financial resources, you may qualify for assistance from the Social Security Administration through its Supplemental Security Income program. It provides a monthly payment for food, shelter, clothing, and medical benefits through Medicaid, but navigating through the application and approval process can be a challenge without the assistance of an experienced New Jersey SSI Attorney to successfully guide you through it.
What Is SSI?
Perhaps, the best place to begin explaining what SSI is maybe by explaining what it is not. SSI is not the same as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is another disability program administered by the federal government. You do not need a history of working and paying Social Security payroll taxes on what you earned to be eligible for SSI as you do for the SSDI program. SSI imposes strict limits on income and assets you can own to qualify for benefits, which SSDI does not.
So, what is SSI? It provides monthly payments to adults and children who are disabled or blind or adults who are 65 years of age or older. Age or disability is only part of the requirements to qualify for SSI benefits. Other requirements include:
- Be a citizen or national of the United States or meet one of the exceptions to the citizenship requirement, such as someone lawfully admitted for permanent residency.
- Live in the U.S. or the Northern Mariana Islands.
- Not leave the U.S. for more than a month while receiving SSI.
- Meet strict financial resource and income limits for the program.
The medical and financial requirements can be difficult to meet, but a New Jersey SSI attorney can help you to gather and present the documentation needed to support your claim for benefits.
What Are SSI Benefits?
The maximum monthly payment from SSI in 2021 is $794 for an individual and $1,191 for couples. The amount that you receive may be less depending on other income you receive or changes in the financial resources available to you. A change in living arrangements may affect your monthly SSI benefits, as well. For instance, if a friend or relative offers you a place to live without charging rent, Social Security treats what you would have paid in rent as income.
Depending on where you live, some states provide Medicaid and SNAP or food stamp benefits to recipients of SSI. Some states pay a monthly supplement in addition to the payment you receive each month from the federal government.
Medical Standards to Qualify for SSI
Social Security uses different criteria when evaluating disability in children and adults. A child is disabled when a medically determinable physical or mental impairment causes functional limitations that are marked and severe and have lasted or are expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months or cause the person to die.
According to Social Security regulations, an adult is disabled when a medically determinable physical or mental impairment causes the person to be unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity. The physical or mental impairment must be expected to cause the death of the person or have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months.
Blindness for both adults and children means the person has distance central visual acuity of 20/200 or less with the use of a corrective lens in the stronger eye. Blindness also means a visual field limitation of the stronger eye causing the widest diameter of the visual field to subtend an angle no greater than 20 degrees.
A person with a visual impairment that does not meet the exact definitions used by Social Security for blindness should speak with a New Jersey SSI lawyer. The visual impairment may allow you to qualify for benefits using the definition for disability instead of the one for blindness.
Income and Resource Limits to Qualify for SSI
Social Security imposes strict income and resource limits to qualify for SSI. Resources cannot exceed $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple. Resources include the following:
- Money on hand or deposited in banks and other financial institutions.
- Real estate except that the value of a home used as your principal residence is an excluded resource.
- Vehicles other than one vehicle used for personal transportation by you or a member of your household.
- Personal property.
Income includes earnings from employment or self-employment. It also includes unearned income, such as unemployment benefits, Social Security, and state disability benefits.
Social Security does not count all income that you receive. Excluded income includes the following:
- First $20 of monthly income regardless of its source.
- First $65 of monthly earned income and half of earned income after the first $65.
- Income tax refunds.
- Food stamps.
The monthly income you receive that is not excluded reduces your SSI benefits. For example, if you earn $400 in a month from working, it is reduced by $85 ($20 income exclusion and $65 earned income exclusion) to $315. Half of the $315 is excluded as earned income leaving a balance of $157.50 as countable income to reduce your SSI payment for that month.
Get Help from an SSI Attorney
Whether you are filing an initial application for SSI benefits or have questions about filing an appeal of a denial of benefits, a New Jersey SSI lawyer can help. Call today for a free consultation.