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One of the government’s most important roles is to provide for those who are too elderly, ill, or disabled to do so on their own. That is the main purpose of the Supplemental Security Income program. While it does not provide enough to cover all the expenses of daily living, it can help those with disabilities live as independently as possible.

If you’ve applied and been denied or you’re beginning the application process, Walton Law can help. To set up a consultation with Walton Law, call us at 251-455-5819. We look forward to working with you.

An Overview of the SSI Program

While many people confuse SSDI and SSI, they are separate programs with several big differences. SSI, short for Supplemental Security Income, is a tax-funded program that provides assistance to those who are elderly, blind, or disabled. The money it provides recipients is intended to help with food, shelter, clothing, and other basic needs.

Funding is provided based on each applicant’s disability, assets, and income. While SSDI is not an income-based program, SSI is. Having too much income or too many assets can decrease or eliminate payments.

Disability Requirements for SSI

In order to qualify for SSI, you must either be 65 or older, blind, or disabled. Proving that you are disabled is where many applicants struggle to get approved. The definition of disability varies for adults and children, so it’s important to know that you are looking at the right definition. For adults, a disability is defined as:

  • A condition causing an inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity
  • A condition expected to last 12 months or more or result in your death

For children, a disability is defined as:

  • Conditions causing marked, severe functional limitations
  • Conditions that either result in death or are expected to last at least 12 months

One of your main goals in your SSI application is proving that your condition is severe enough to prevent you from engaging in substantial gainful activity. The main tool for doing this is the Social Security Listing of Impairments, more commonly referred to as the “Blue Book.”

This includes diagnoses in 14 different categories. Each diagnosis has specific criteria that must be met. If you meet these criteria, you can qualify for SSI payments without further proving your disability.

However, qualifying via the Blue Book can be challenging as their criteria are extremely rigorous. For example, the criteria for cerebral palsy is:

  • Disorganization of motor function in two or more extremities, limiting one’s ability to stand from a seated position, balance while walking or standing, or use arms or;
  • Marked limitation in physical functioning and understanding/applying/remembering information, interacting with others, concentrating, or managing oneself or;
  • Interference in communication because of deficits in the area of hearing, speaking, or seeing

Even if your disability is not listed in the Blue Book—or if you don’t meet the criteria listed under your diagnosis—you can still apply for SSI. You simply have to do a little more work to prove the extent of your disability and show how it keeps you from engaging in gainful activity.

Asset and Income Requirements for SSI

Since SSI is an income-based program, you do not qualify if you are above certain income or asset limits. However, before you use listed requirements to begin getting rid of assets or otherwise getting below the limit, speak to an attorney. There are tons of exceptions in both areas, and without an attorney’s assistance, you could be getting rid of assets or income that you would be allowed to keep.

Income includes wages, self-employment earnings, royalties, Social Security benefits, cash from loved ones, food or shelter obtained below market rate, or income earned by the spouse or parents you live with. Again, though, there are lots of exceptions to this.

Some of the income that does not count against you for SSI purposes includes:

  • First $20 of income in each month
  • First $65 of earnings and half of your earnings above that limit
  • Tax refunds
  • Home energy assistance
  • Small amounts received irregularly
  • SNAP
  • Grants and funds used for tuition and educational purposes
  • Need-based assistance from a state, local, or Indian nation government
  • Need-based food or shelter provided by nonprofit agencies
  • Money set aside in a PASS
  • Impairment-related work expenses

After you exceed these limits, your benefits will start to decrease and will eventually be eliminated.

Assets or resources include a wide range of items, such as cash, bank accounts, vehicles, land, life insurance, personal property, and anything you have that could be sold. Some exceptions to this include:

  • The home you live in and the land it sits on
  • Life insurance policies with a face value of less than $1500
  • Burial spaces purchased for you and your immediate family
  • Property used for work
  • Personal effects
  • Household goods
  • Up to $100,000 in an ABLE account

An individual applying for SSI can have up to $2,000 in resources and a couple applying for SSI may have up to $3,000 in resources.

How to Apply

You can apply for Supplemental Security Income online, in person, or over the telephone. Before you begin the application process, make sure you have all the required documents, forms, and statements. In general, more evidence is better.

Even if you think you’re overdoing it on medical evidence, it is always better to provide more. Your goal is to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that your disability keeps you from working or engaging in other gainful activity.

If you get denied when you apply, don’t be discouraged. The majority of applicants get denied at least once before being approved. This just means that you may need some help to make your application stronger and have a better chance at approval after reconsideration.

Turn to Walton Law for Help Today

We know how SSI can bridge the gap between what you have and what you need, which is why Walton Law is focused on advocating for SSI applicants. Whether you’re applying for the first time or trying to get a denial appealed, we’re here to help you. Schedule a consultation now by calling us at 251-455-5819 or reaching out online.


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