Supplemental Security Income


Updated

Jul 20, 2018

Although Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is an important source of income for millions of Americans, including those in Florida, many others who apply for SSI without a lawyer are initially denied or receive the bare minimum in benefits. The confusing application process can put applicants at a disadvantage, making it difficult for these individuals to recover the benefits needed to live comfortably.

At Morgan & Morgan, our experienced social security attorneys can help individuals and families who need assistance filing claims, as well as those who have already been denied benefits. With decades of experience handling social security claims, our Florida attorneys understand the importance of SSI, which, for some claimants, may supplement Medicaid, social security, food stamps, Medicare and other government benefits.

Do you think you or a loved one may be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or another type of social security benefit? If so, do not hesitate to contact one of our skilled social security attorneys today. To find out if we can help you receive benefits, simply fill out our free, no-obligation case review form.

How to Apply for Supplemental Security Income

Most of the application process for SSI must be completed at an individual’s Local Florida SSA Office; however, some preparation can be done beforehand to save time when filing for benefits. First, applicants can complete an online Adult Disability Report (a portion of the application for an individual adult), or an online Child Disability Report to apply for SSI benefits on behalf of a child. Since benefits will be paid (if the application is approved) from the day that you contact the SSA to apply, you should begin the application process as soon as possible. Because the application process can be confusing, it may be beneficial for applicants to speak with an attorney before moving forward.

The application process requires significant documentation. To be sure that the filing process goes smoothly, make sure you have the proper documentation. Some of the following documents (original copies, not photocopies) are needed to complete the application process:

  • Social Security number (If you do not have one, you will need to apply for one.)
  • Proof of age (birth certificate or a document such as a driver’s license which shows your age or date of birth)
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or immigration status (certificate of citizenship, U.S. passport or birth certificate, immigration form showing your status)
  • Proof of income (pay stubs, tax returns, other receipts showing how much you receive)
  • Proof of resources (bank statements, insurance policies, stocks, bonds, car registration, etc.)
  • Proof of living arrangements (property tax bill, rent receipts, utility bills, food bills, etc.)
  • Proof of medical condition (medical reports, names and telephone numbers of doctors or other providers of medical services if you are applying as blind or disabled)

Individuals that do not have all of these documents should still apply. If necessary, the Social Security Administration will help you obtain these documents.

How Much Will I Receive for SSI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is based on income, resources, and other factors; therefore, benefit amounts will vary by person. Effective January 2013, the maximum Federal SSI payment for an eligible individual is $710 per month and $1,066 per month for an eligible couple. Some states, including Florida, supplement the federal SSI payment; therefore, the maximum amount may be higher for individuals and couples with relatively low income and resources. In addition, back pay is typically available and will cover the time period between the initial filing and the approval of the application.

Eligibility for SSI

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is available for anyone who is age 65 or older, blind, or disabled AND has limited income, limited resources, and is a U.S. citizen or natural (or in certain categories of aliens).

Disability

Adults may be considered disabled if an individual has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment (including an emotional or learning problem) which:

  • results in the inability to perform any substantial gainful activity; and
  • can be expected to result in death; or
  • has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

Children may be considered disabled if they have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, (including an emotional or learning problem) which:

  • results marked and severe functional limitations; and
  • can be expected to result in death; or
  • has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

Limited Income

SSI is based almost entirely on income. In general, if an individual’s income is too high, their award total will be reduced or they will not be eligible for SSI benefits. The SSA determines income from an aggregate total of various sources including:

  • Earned Income is wages, net earnings from self–employment, certain royalties and honoraria, and sheltered workshop payments.
  • Unearned Income is all income that is not earned, such as Social security benefits, pensions, State disability payments, unemployment benefits, interest income, and cash from friends and relatives.
  • In–Kind Income is food or shelter that you get for free or less than its fair market value.
  • Deemed Income is the part of the income of your spouse with whom you live, your parent(s) with whom you live, or your sponsor (if you are an alien), which we use to compute your SSI benefit amount.

Income Not Counted for SSI: The following are not counted as income in determining eligibility for SSI:

  • The first $20 of most income you receive per month
  • The first $65 earned as a result of your occupation along with half the amount beyond that $65
  • Income tax refunds
  • Food stamps
  • Loans that have to be repaid
  • Small amounts of irregularly received income
  • Shelter provided by nonprofit groups (e.g., Salvation Army)
  • Majority of home energy assistance (e.g., National Grid)

Limited Resources

Resources in the calculation of SSI include a variety of assets. If you are single, and your assets are worth less than $2,000, you may be eligible to receive SSI. Couples are eligible only if their resources total less than $3,000. If you are in the midst of selling property, you may be able to receive SSI while you are waiting for it to sell. Many things are not considered resources in calculating SSI, including the home you live in and the land it sits on; household goods and personal effects; burial funds; a vehicle used for transportation; and life insurance policies worth less than $1,500 total. Some of the assets considered include:

  • cash;
  • bank accounts, stocks, U.S. savings bonds;
  • land;
  • vehicles;
  • personal property;
  • life insurance; and
  • other possessions that could be converted to cash or used for food or shelter.

Social Security Death Benefits

Social Security is designed to provide protection for working parents and their families. If a parent dies, their children may be entitled to receive SSI benefits to cover related financial losses.

Unmarried children may collect SSI benefits after a parent’s death if they are:

  • Younger than 18;
  • Between the ages of 18 and 19, but enrolled as a full-time student at a secondary school; or
  • 18 or older, but have a serious disability which manifested before they were 22.

Benefits for Disabled Children

SSI may be able to help families with children who have severe disabilities if they have minimal income and limited resources. These benefits may be paid regardless of the parent’s ability to work, and will continue as long as the child is disabled and unable to provide for themselves financially.

A child may be eligible for SSI Disability insurance if they:

  • Have a physical or mental condition which is so severe that is results in serious functional limitations;
  • Have the condition for a minimum of 12 months;
  • Must believe the condition will be the cause of the child’s death; and/or
  • Are not gainfully employed and doing work the SSI administration considers “substantial work.”

SSI Benefits Combined with Other Benefits

Even if you are an SSI recipient, you could be eligible for other benefits offered by the state of Florida or your county. For instance, you may still qualify for Medicaid, food stamps, or other social services. By contacting the local Florida social services department or public welfare office, you can learn more about the benefits available in your area.

Food stamps: If all residents in your household sign up for SSI or currently receive it, the SSA will guide you through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamp) application. If you live at a residence in which everyone does not sign up for or collect SSI, you are asked to acquire food stamps from the regional food stamp office.

Social Security: If you have worked and paid into Social Security for a significant period of time, you also may be eligible for Social Security benefits, even while you are receiving SSI.

Medicaid: Some people who receive SSI may also have access to Medicaid, a service that provides compensation for medical bills to those who would otherwise be unable to afford payment.

Medicare: If you are a Medicare subscriber and have little to no income, the Florida state government may cover your Medicare premiums. In some cases, the government may even pay for additional costs related to Medicare, such as deductibles and coinsurance. The state of Florida will make the final determination as to whether you are eligible. If you would like to learn more about your eligibility, contact your state or local welfare office or Medicaid agency.

You could possibly receive financial assistance to help pay for yearly deductibles, monthly premiums, and medication copayments affiliated with the Medicare prescription drug program. You could be entitled to these benefits if you live in poverty and have limited earning potential. These restrictions related to wealth and income change annually and do not correlate with SSI limitations. You will automatically receive this assistance if:

  • You have Medicaid with prescription drug coverage and Medicare
  • You have Medicare and SSI
  • Your state government compensates you for Medicare premiums

How Can an Attorney Help me With an Appeal?

If your application for SSI has been denied or you believe you were not compensated properly, your attorney may appeal the decision by filing a written request within 60 days of receiving the decision letter. Your claim could potentially reach four stages of review if it is continually denied.

Reconsideration: During this phase, an individual who was not involved in the decision regarding your claim will review your entire application, plus any new evidence, if applicable.

Hearing: If your claim is denied again, or if you disagree with the results, you may ask for a hearing by an administrative law judge. More information regarding your claim may be requested for review prior to your hearing. At the hearing, the judge will question the claimant, any witnesses brought on their behalf, and any expert witnesses—medical or vocational—who are deemed necessary. In most cases, the claimant must be present for the hearing; however, alternative options may be explored if necessary.

Appeals Council: If you and your attorney are dissatisfied with the judge’s determination, you may ask for a review by the Social Security Appeals Council. The Council reviews all requests, but is not required to grant you another hearing. If you are granted a review, your case will either be resolved or sent back to another administrative judge for review.

Federal Court: If your claim is not chosen for review or if you do not agree with the Appeals Council’s decision, you may file a lawsuit with the assistance of an attorney in a federal district court.

Our social security lawyers have extensive experience handling SSI appeals claims. They will be able to help you through each step of the appeals process and compile any documentation or evidence that is necessary to substantiate your appeal.

If you are already receiving SSI and would like to know if you qualify for any of these other benefits, discuss your situation with a Florida social security disability attorney today. Furthermore, if you are unsure whether you meet the requirements to receive SSI, an Social Security attorney can help as to determine your eligibility. To learn more about the benefits to which you may be entitled, don’t hesitate to contact us today by filling out our free, no-risk case review form.

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