Explaining Supplemental Security Income | Law Office of Jennifer Zorrilla
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Explaining Supplemental Security Income

The Social Security Administration runs three programs that provide income assistance for qualifying persons and families. Most people in southern California are familiar with Social Security income and Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, but the Supplemental Security Income program is not as well known. This post will provide an overview of this important income supplement program.

Supplemental Security Income is a program that makes monthly cash payments to persons in need. Three classes of persons are eligible:

  • Persons who are age 65 or older;
  • Persons of any age who are disabled as defined by the SSA; and
  • Persons of any age who are blind.

SSI benefits are available only to low income persons and families. In order to qualify for SSI benefits, applicants must show that their income does not exceed the levels prescribed by federal regulations. SSI income limits, called the SSI Federal Benefit Rate, vary from state to state depending upon local economic conditions. For persons in California, the Federal Benefit Rate for single individuals ranges from $648.50 to $1,145.00 depending upon the person's qualifying circumstance (blind, over 65 or disabled) and his or her living situation. The Federal Benefit Rate for aged or disabled couples ranges from $1,134.67 to $2,290.00 depending upon their living situation. The Federal Benefit Rate for blind persons ranges from $1,286.67 to $1,643.20 depending upon living situation.

An applicant for SSI benefits must list all sources of income and all assets. Income must include money earned from work, money received from other sources such as Social Security benefits and all sources of free food and shelter. The SSA then adjusts the income by subtracting certain kinds of payments, such as the first $20 received in a month, the first $65 of earnings and one-half of earnings over $65 received in a month, food stamps and funds received from similar assistance programs. These subtractions from gross income yield countable income. Countable income is then subtracted from the Federal Benefit Rate to determine the SSI benefit. If a person's countable income is more than the Federal Benefit rate, that person is ineligible to receive SSI benefits.

Obtaining Supplemental Security income can be a daunting process. Anyone contemplating making such a filing may wish to consult an attorney who specializes in SSI and SSDI cases for advice and assistance.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Understanding Supplemental Security Income SSI Income -- 2016 Edition," accessed on Dec. 5, 2016

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