Social security disability is designed to provide financial assistance to those individuals who meet the definition of disabled and who are no longer able to work. There are two different programs. SSD is aimed at individuals who have a work record and who have contributed to social security through paychecks from employers. This post is here to give you more information on the second type of social security disability, SSI.
SSI or supplemental security income is available to individuals who are over age 65, blind or disabled and cannot work and who do not have the necessary financial means to provide certain necessities as well as limited assets and resources. The good thing about this program is that you do not have to have worked in order to qualify, like you would for SSD. If you have not worked long enough, or recently enough, SSI may be the right social security disability program for you and your family.
In order to be eligible for SSI an individual must not exceed the allowable income amount per month. With that said, what counts as income in the eyes of the Social Security Administration? The following list includes the type of income counted in an SSI consideration: earned income such as wages and salary, unearned income such as unemployment benefits, pensions, state disability, money from friends, etc, food or shelter that you get for free or less than fair market value, and deemed income such as a spouse's income or parents whom you live with. If you are bringing in any type of money that fits into one of the above categories then if you are awarded SSI benefits your monthly check may be reduced by the income you are receiving. While this above list is not exhaustive, it is a good place to start.
The good news, there are several types of income that are excluded from the calculation of SSI benefits. The following list includes some types of income that are not counted against you and your family, small amount of irregular or random money collected from a job, food stamps, food and shelter provided by a non-profit agency, income tax refunds, loans that you have to repay, certain portions of your wages per month, certain amounts for students per month, gifts of clothing, etc.
So how does the Social Security Administration calculate your SSI benefits each month. There is a two step process. First they take the total amount of income you are bringing in each month (see above list of income). They then subtract that amount by income that is excluded per month (see above list for examples). Once they have that figure they will then subtract this figure by the SSI Federal Benefit rate (currently $579) to arrive at your monthly benefits. This may seem confusing at first, but if you sit down and look at you individual situation, or sit down with a social security disability lawyer who is familiar with these steps, you will find the process is not as difficult as you might think.
If you recall we mentioned that in addition to not exceeding the allowable income amount, you cannot exceed the allowable resource amount either. So what are resources? Anything you own! Cars, stocks, bonds, plates, clothes, homes, toys, land, insurance policies, etc are all examples of resources. Currently the amount of resources allowed for an individual is $2000 and the amount of resources allowed for a couple is $3000, anything above these two figures respectively may penalize an SSI claimant.
Just like exemptions in a typical bankruptcy case (items you get to keep), there are several items of resources that are not counted against you in regard to your SSI calculation. The following is a list of some of these items: you home and the land it is on, you personal effects (clothes, shoes, etc), household goods, one engagement and wedding ring, one vehicle if it is used to get to and from work as well as seek medical attention, burial plots, certain life insurance policies not exceeding $1500, etc.
Hopefully this post gives you a better understanding of the SSI program or supplemental security income. Please note that this post is designed to give you an idea of the types of items and issues that may arise in a typical SSI claim. This post should not be considered the end of you research. If after reading this you want to learn more, or you are just plain confused with how all of this affects you and your family please contact an experienced social security disability attorney.