Understanding Supplemental Security Benefits

The Social Security Administration offers two types of disability benefits. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is funded through payroll deductions. Generally, to be eligible for benefits, a person must have accumulated a certain number of work credits over time (but there are some exceptions to that rule).

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is based on financial need, not work history. So if a person with a disability has not earned enough work credits to apply for SSDI, they may be able to apply for SSI. An adult may also apply for SSI on behalf of a minor child (under age 18).

Both SSDI and SSI require applicants to provide proof of disability, with one exception: adults age 65 and older may qualify for SSI based on financial need only.

Applying for disability benefits can be a confusing and frustrating process, and many applicants who apply learn months later that their claim has been denied. To improve your chances of getting the benefits you need, contact the law office of John R. Colvin to request a disability benefits case consultation: 1-931-962-1044.

How the SSA Determines Disability

The SSA considers a disability to be a condition that is expected to last a year or more or is likely to result in death. For children, a disability must seriously limit activities; for adults, a disability must make substantial gainful activity impossible.

Substantial gainful activity is defined by a certain dollar amount, which may change from year to year. For 2017, a person with a disability who earns more than $1,170 per month (or, if blind, earns more than $1,950 per month) is considered to be engaged in substantial gainful activity.

Financial Requirements for SSI

The SSA applies strict income and assets guidelines, in determining eligibility for SSI. The SSA considers the total value of your resources, which includes money you have in checking and savings, and any stocks, bonds, or real estate in your name (with the exception of your home and land where you live).

Your individual resources must amount to less than $2,000 (or $3,000, for a married couple). The SSA does not count as resources:

  • Life insurance policies with a face value of less than $1,501
  • Your car (in most cases)
  • Burial plots for you and your immediate family members
  • Up to $1,500 in burial funds for you (or up to $3,000 for both you and your spouse)

When Minor Children Turn 18

Children who have disabilities may be ineligible for SSI, based on the value of their parents’ assets and resources. However, when they turn 18, they might be able to qualify for SSI, if they meet certain means tests.

The SSA assumes that young people with disabilities living on their own, or with others, will still receive some financial support from parents. To that end, the parents’ income may still affect a young person’s eligibility for benefits. However, parents who set up a disability trust for their child can provide support without jeopardizing their child’s benefits.

With a disability trust, parents can deposit money that children use for certain expenses.

If a child uses money in the trust to pay rent, SSI benefits are reduced, but by no more than $265 per month (that figure may change each year). Trust money used for necessary items other than food or shelter – such as utility bills and medical care – does not reduce SSI benefits.

Getting Advice About Benefits

An individual may be eligible for several types of benefits at the same time – SSI, SSDI, Medicaid and Medicare, for example. It’s important for benefits recipients to understand how each of these benefits may affect their total payments, and how their earnings – if any – may jeopardize benefits.

John R. Colvin has helped many families in the Tennessee Valley and northern Alabama navigate the confusing process of applying for disability benefits. Some clients he has helped came to him after their initial claim was denied, and he represented them in the disability benefits appeals process.

If you believe you have an illness or condition that meets the definition of disability and need help getting your benefits, don’t hesitate to ask for help – the SSA backlog is significant, so it’s in your interest to apply as soon as possible. Contact us today for a free consultation – online or at 1-931-962-1044.

Licensed to Practice in Tennessee & Alabama