In order to receive SSI benefits, individuals must prove the following:
65 years of age or blind or disabled.
Income below guidelines.
Have applied for the benefits.
Disability means inability to engage in any SGA [substantial gainful activity] by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which 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.
Workers shall be determined to be under a disability only if the physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that the individual is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy. This is regardless of whether any of these are true:
Such work exists in the immediate area in which the claimant lives.
A specific job vacancy exists.
The claimant would be hired if they applied for work.
Work which exists in the national economy means work which exists in significant numbers either in the region where such individuals lives or in several regions of the country.”
ABILITY TO EARN INCOME RESTRICTIONS
Substantial gainful activity (SGA), for the year 2014, is the ability to earn $1070 gross income in a month’s period for most disabled individuals, and $1800 for those whose disability includes blindness.
Children under the age of 18 can be determined to be disabled for SSI purposes “if the individual has a medically determinable impairment or combination of impairments that causes marked or severe functional limitation(s), 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.”
Being blind means having a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the use of a correcting lens. An eye which has a limitation in the field of vision such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees should also be considered as having a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less.”
In addition, for SSI purposes, an individual is considered blind regardless of the period of time they are expected to be blind or if they are performing substantial gainful activity.
INCOME RESTRICTIONS FOR HOUSEHOLD
One of the requirements to receive SSI is that the individual’s income must be below certain limits. These limits may vary based on the state in which the individual lives, his/her living arrangement, the number of people living in the residence, and the type of income. The limit varies on all of these factors and is described below, in the section on benefit computation.
RESOURCES RESTRICTIONS FOR HOUSEHOLD
Another requirement for SSI is that the individual’s resources be below a certain limit. This amount is $2,000 for a single individual and $3,000 for an individual and their spouse (whether the spouse is eligible for SSI or not), $4,000 for a child applicant with one parent living in the household, and $5,000 for a child applicant with two parents living in the household. However, conditional benefits may be paid if a substantial portion of the resources are considered non-liquid, resources that cannot be sold within 20 working days, if they agree to sell the resources at their current market value within a specified period and repay the money after the non-liquid property is sold.
However, not all actual resources are counted in calculating an individual’s or couple’s resources for SSI purposes.
May be ineligible if he or she is a resident of a public institution from the first day of a month through the last day of the same month, fails to apply for all other benefits for which they may be eligible (including Social Security benefits), has an unsatisfied warrant or violates parole conditions, fails to give SSA permission to contact any financial institution for financial records, or is outside the US for 30 consecutive days with some exceptions.
Generally, the person qualifying for benefits is determined to be capable of managing their own financial affairs, and the benefits may be disbursed directly to them. In the case of persons who have a diagnosed mental impairment which interferes with their ability to manage their own finances, the Social Security Administration may require that the person assign someone to be their representative payee. This person will receive the benefits on behalf of the disabled individual, and disburse them directly to payors such as landlords, or to the disabled person, while providing money management assistance (help with purchasing items, limiting spending money, etc.). The representative payee generally does not charge a fee for this service, especially if it’s a friend or relative. Social service agencies who are assigned as payee are prohibited from charging a fee, though some private payee agencies do provide the service for a small fee. Some states and counties have representative payee agencies (also called substitute payee programs) which receive the benefits on behalf of the disabled person’s social worker, and disburse the benefits per the social worker’s instructions.