Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) is a federal program through the Social Security Administration that provides financial assistance to individuals with disabilities, low-income adults over the age of 65, and certain blind individuals.
You or your children may be eligible for SSI if you have little or no income, few resources and a disability, blindness, or are over the age of 65. Under the current rules, SSI is generally for individuals who earn no more than $1,913.00 from work each month. This monthly income limit increases if you have a spouse, or if you apply for your children. Income from non-work sources is included in the review, such as disability benefits, unemployment and pensions.
Your resources, like vehicles and money in bank accounts, cannot exceed $2,000.00 for an individual and $3,000.00 for a couple. These numbers increase by $2,000.00 if you are a parent applying for your child. Resources that do not count toward your resource limit are generally: your personal residence and the land it is on, 1 vehicle per household, most personal and household items, property you cannot use or sell, burial funds of a limited amount, burial spaces, life insurance policies with a combined face value of $1,500.00 or less, money set aside under a Plan to Achieve Self-Support (“PASS”) account, and up to $100,000.00 of funds in an Achieving a Better Life Experience (“ABLE”) established through a state ABLE program.
What you receive under SSI
The maximum monthly SSI amount for 2023 is $914.00 for an individual and $1,371.00 for a couple. Your amount may be lower based upon your income, family members’ income, your living situation, and other factors. SSI payments are reduced by about one dollar for every two dollars you earn from work. In terms of SSI, work can include a job, self-employment, and any activity that earns money. Money from non-work sources reduces your monthly SSI payment by about one dollar for every dollar received. If you live with a spouse, your spouse’s income may affect your SSI payment. If you have children on SSI who live with you, your children’s payments may be lowered based on your income or their income. If you live in another person’s home, your SSI may be lowered by up to a third of the year’s maximum payment. This reduction will not apply if you show that you pay your fair share of food and shelter costs. The living arrangement rules are complex. Pennsylvania also offers a state supplement.
There may be other government programs or benefits if you get SSI; there is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) and Medicaid. SNAP assists with food payment and Medicaid helps with hospital and doctor bills. If you receive SNAP or Medicaid benefits, that assistance will not affect your SSI payment. There are also rent rebates and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (“TANF”) benefits.
How to apply for SSI
You can apply for SSI here. The process takes five to ten minutes. Once the online process is complete, a Social Security representative schedules an appointment to help you apply for benefits. If you do not have online access, you may call 1-800-772-1213. A representative will schedule the appointment and determine whether it will be on the phone or in person. Once the application is submitted, it is sent to a Disability Determinations Services (“DDS”) office. It takes three to six months to review your application and medical records. You will get a letter in the mail with the decision.
Difference between SSI and SSDI
Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) pays benefits to you and certain of your family if you are “insured.” By that, it means that you worked long enough, recently enough, and paid Social Security taxes on your earnings. There are no resources limits for SSDI. As described above, SSI pays benefits to those who have a qualifying disability and have limited income and resources. The medical requirements are the same for both SSI and SSDI qualifications.
If you or a family member receives SSI and is expected to inherit, there is special planning that needs to be done to make sure that your SSI benefits are not lost when you receive an inheritance.
Tammy A. Weber is a Certified Elder Law Attorney and the Managing Attorney of the law firm of Marshall, Parker & Weber, LLC with offices in Williamsport, Jersey Shore, and Plains. For more information visit www.paelderlaw.com or call 1-800-401-4552.