If you can’t work because of a disability – whether it is a medical condition or a mental health condition – then you may qualify for benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). The federal government offers two different disability benefits programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Depending on your situation, you may qualify for one or both programs.
SSI offers monthly payments to adults and children who are disabled or who are blind. To qualify, you must meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disabled. You must also demonstrate that you have limited income and assets. Unlike SSDI, you do not need a work history to qualify for SSI benefits.
Based in Cherry Hill, Bross & Frankel represents people with disabilities in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. For each case, our goal is to help our clients get the Social Security disability benefits that they deserve. Reach out today to learn more or to schedule a free claim review with a member of our legal team.
What Is SSI?
Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is a needs-based program that is offered through the Social Security Administration. To qualify for this program, you must prove that you are unable to work due to a disability and that you have limited income and assets. People who are disabled, blind, and/or aged 65 or older may qualify for this program.
Unlike Social Security Disability Insurance, SSI is not funded by payroll taxes. Instead, it is paid for by the general funds of the U.S. Treasury, including personal income taxes and corporate taxes. For this reason, you do not need to have paid into the system by working in order to qualify for SSI benefits.
If your application for SSI is approved, then you will receive a monthly benefit. This amount may vary from year to year based on cost of living adjustments (COLA). In 2023, the federal benefit rate per month is $914 for an individual or $1,371 for a couple. This rate may be lower based on your “countable” income.
You may also be eligible for an additional payment from your state, depending on where you live. You’ll receive your SSI payment on the first of the month, every month.
With SSDI, your monthly benefit is based in part on your earning history – the longer that you have worked and the more you have paid into the system, the greater your monthly benefit will be (subject to a maximum limit). However, because SSI isn’t based on paying into the system, you will receive the same amount regardless of your work history.
If you qualify for SSI, you may also be eligible for other types of assistance. This may include medical assistance (Medicaid) and food stamps (SNAP). If you have earned work credits, then you may also qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance.
The SSI application process can be overwhelming, especially if you are dealing with doctor’s appointments, therapy, and other issues related to your disability. An experienced SSI lawyer can help you with your disability claim, whether you are filing an initial application or are appealing a denial.
How Do I Qualify for SSI Benefits?
To be eligible for SSI, you must:
- Be disabled under the Social Security Administration’s definition;
- Meet the income and asset requirements of the SSI program;
- Be a U.S. citizen or noncitizen that qualifies for an exception; and
- File an application for disability benefits.
SSI benefits are available for people aged 65 or older, disabled individuals, and disabled children.
The SSA uses the same process to determine if a person is disabled for both SSDI and SSI. The five-step sequential process examines the following factors:
- If you are working, you cannot earn more than an average of $1,470 (in 2023) per month (known as substantial gainful employment, or SGA). If you are not working, then the SSA’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) will decide your condition;
- Your impairment or combination of impairments must significantly limit your ability to perform basic work, and must be expected to last for a year or longer or to result in death;
- Your impairment must meet or exceed all of the requirements on the SSA’s Listing of Impairments, or it must have other factors that equal a medical condition on the list;
- If your impairment does not meet this criterion, then it must prevent you from performing any of your past work; and
- You must not be able to do any other type of work, based on your impairment, age, education, past work experience, and any transferable skills.
This determination is based on the application and documentation that you submit to the SSA. Typically, a person will submit medical records as well as evidence related to their ability to work as part of the application process. Disabled people who meet these criteria may qualify for SSI benefits.
If you are found to be disabled, then the Social Security Administration will next analyze your income and assets. For SSI purposes, income includes money that you earn from work, money that you receive from other sources (such as veterans benefits or workers’ compensation benefits), as well as any free food or shelter that you may receive.
The SSA does exclude certain types of income from this calculation, such as the value of SNAP benefits, income tax refunds, and irregular or infrequent income. In 2023, a person who earns more than $1,470 per month probably will not qualify for SSI benefits. A person must have less than $934 per month – or $1,391 per couple – in unearned income to be eligible for SSI.
The SSA will also take a look at your assets as part of this process. Assets include things that you own, such as bank accounts, personal property, life insurance, land, and cash. The SSA does not count the value of all of your resources for SSI purposes. The SSI limits for assets in 2023 are $2,000 for a disabled individual or child or $3,000 for a couple.
Determining whether someone meets the income and assets criteria for SSI can be complicated, particularly because there are complex rules about which income and assets are counted and how they are counted. A Social Security Disability attorney can help you understand what your options are when it comes to applying for SSDI and/or SSI.
How Can an SSI Attorney Help?
The SSI application process is confusing for many people. An SSI lawyer can work with you to put together the necessary medical evidence and other documentation to support your claim. They can also fill out the application and file it with the SSA.
Many initial applications for Social Security disability are denied, due to lack of evidence, failure to meet the SSA criteria, or a paperwork error. Fortunately, you can appeal a denial. The SSA has 4 appeal levels:
- File a Request for Reconsideration;
- Request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ);
- Request review by the SSA Appeals Council; and
- File a lawsuit in federal court.
Generally, you must file an appeal within 60 days of a notice of denial. At all levels of appeal, there are strict rules regarding the type of evidence that can be introduced and how the appeal will be handled. If an appeal is not successful, then you can move on to the next level of appeal with the assistance of your SSI lawyer – up to a lawsuit in federal court.
If You’re Thinking About Applying for SSI, We Can Help.
The Supplemental Security Income program is intended to help people who truly need financial assistance due to the combination of disability, inability to work, and low income. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to successfully apply for SSI benefits because of the level of evidence required to prove that you meet the criteria. Our law firm will help you through the process.
Bross & Frankel advocates for people with disabilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Our Social Security lawyers have helped thousands of people get the benefits that they need from the SSA, Veterans Affairs, or a disability insurance company. If you’d like to schedule a free claim review with a Cherry Hill Social Security disability attorney, give us a call at 866-708-3503 or fill out our online contact form.
My Child Is Disabled. Can I Apply for SSI Benefits on Their Behalf?
Yes. A disabled child may be eligible for SSI benefits. To qualify, your child must have a disability as defined by the SSA. As their parents, your income and assets must also be within the guidelines for SSI benefits.
The process of applying for Social Security benefits for your child is different from applying for adults. For example, instead of proving that they cannot work, you will need to demonstrate how their disability affects their ability to perform daily activities. If you are interested in applying for SSI and/or SSDI benefits for your child, call Bross & Frankel to talk to a New Jersey disability benefits lawyer.
When Should I Apply for SSI Benefits?
If you believe that you qualify for SSI benefits, then you should file a disability claim as soon as possible. There isn’t any benefit to waiting if you have been disabled for at least a year or believe that you will be disabled for 12 months or longer.
The application process – and filing any necessary appeals – can take a long time. The sooner that you apply for benefits, the sooner you will receive a decision. If you are considering filing for SSI benefits, our law firm can help. Reach out to Bross & Frankel to talk to a New Jersey SSI attorney about your claim.