Social Security Income (SSI)

Social Security Income (SSI) is a disability program for individuals who are NOT covered by Social Security Disability, because they have not worked essentially 5 of the past 10 years and therefore have not contributed enough in the way of payroll taxes to be “covered.” SSI can be a person’s only source of income, or, as its name suggests, supplements other income. Because SSI is needs-based, income is always relevant in determining the amount of the monthly check. However, once approved for SSI, the amount of earnings will not affect the determination of whether a person continues to be disabled.

Following are the requirements to receive SSI, if one is disabled:

  • Be “disabled” using the same definition as is used for the Social Security Disability Program. This means the inability to do any substantial gainful activity, by reason of any medically determined physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.
  • Meet the income and asset requirements of the SSI program.
  • Be a U.S. citizen.
  • File an application.

There are strict income and asset limitations in order to be eligible. Individuals may sometimes receive both SSI and SSDI benefits, if the disability benefits are low enough.

SSI is essentially a welfare entitlement program based on financial need. It is funded by general tax revenues. The Social Security Administration has a breakeven chart which takes into consideration income of the spouse and children. SSA looks at income and resources. There is a threshold of $2,000.00 in resources for an individual, $3,000 for a couple’s case. Not all resources are included, such as an automobile, home place, $2,000 worth of household goods and personal effects or burial space. $20.00 of general income exclusion is first applied to unearned income; any remainder is applied to earned income.

Income is defined as anything received in cash or kind that can be used to meet needs for food or shelter. There are two types of income:

  1. Earned Income: This is typically gross wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, self-employment and sheltered workshop earnings.
  2. Unearned Income: All other types of income, not earned.

The Social Security Administration allows individuals to recover 50% of the work related costs or expenses incurred as a result of impairment (Impairment Related Work Expenses). Deducting the cost of an Impairment Related Work Expense, reduces “countable income” and increases SSI cash payment. Examples of these deductible expenses include attendant care services, employment support services, transportation costs, co-pays and over the counter medications; durable medical equipment and residential modifications. Large expenses, for example, residential modifications, may be prorated over a period of 12 months in order to receive a bigger deduction. For an SSI recipient whose primary diagnosis is blindness and has earned income, the Social Security Administration will exclude ordinary and necessary expenses “attributable to the earning of income.”

Entitlement for SSI starts the month after the month of filing. SSI beneficiaries are entitled to Medicaid benefits as of the month of filing and may be entitled to it up to two month before filing.

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