FAQ on Supplemental Security Income
1. How long does it take for my claim to be processed?
Backlogs are serious at all levels of the application and review process. The severity of the backlog varies nationwide. While the Social Security Administration is working on this problem it can easily take as long as 18 months to go from initial application to a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. So, time is of the essence here if you want to receive benefits.
2. What does Social Security mean by "totally disabled”?
The Social Security Act requires that the medical document that will be used as proof reflect an individual’s inability to work for a period that has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months, or result in death. This is the basic requirement for the two disability programs - SSDI and SSI.
3. What is the difference between SSDI and SSI disability?
The Social Security Administration is responsible for two major programs that provide benefits based on disability -- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is based on years of prior work and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Under SSI, payments are made on the basis of financial need.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is financed with Social Security taxes paid by workers, employers and self-employed persons. To be eligible for a Social Security benefit, the worker must earn sufficient credits based on taxable work to be "insured" for Social Security purposes. Disability benefits are payable to blind or disabled workers, to widow & widowers, or to adults disabled since childhood and all who are otherwise eligible. The amount of the monthly disability benefit is based on the Social Security earnings record of the insured worker.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program financed through general tax revenues. SSI disability benefits are payable to adults or to children who are disabled or blind, have limited income resources and meet the living arrangement requirements. The monthly payment varies and can go up to the maximum federal benefit rate which may be supplemented by the State or decreased by countable income and resources.
4. Do SSI beneficiaries have to inform SSA of changes in living arrangements?
Yes. An SSI beneficiary must report any change in living arrangements within 10 days after the month the change occurs. If you don't, you could end up receiving an incorrect payment and have to pay it back. Failure to report or filing false reports could result in either a fine or imprisonment or worse, even both. Also, you need to report your new address to Social Security so that you can continue to receive mail from Social Security when necessary.
5. If I am on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits, what is the affect of this if I work?
For someone who is working, the first $65 ($85 if the person has no other income in a month) of earnings in a month are disregarded. After that, SSA considers $1 for every $2 the person earns in a month. It also deducts from the monthly earnings of a person with disability any monthly expenses which are needed by that person to work & are related to the person's impairment for as long as said expenses are paid by the person. These expenses are deducted before SSA applies the $1 for $2 computation.
For someone who is blind, SSA deducts any expenses the person has in order to work and is paid by the person. This amount is deducted from the earnings after the $1 for every $2 computation from the monthly earnings. The remaining earnings are added to any other income the person receives in a month such as a pension or unemployment insurance and the result is deducted from the federal benefit rate which is $603 a month for 2006 ($579 for 2005).
If the person has only earnings and doesn't pay for any expenses in order to work, the person’s earnings may reach up to $1,291 in a month for 2006 ($1,243 in 2005) before the person's SSI federal cash payments stop.