Case Involves Supplemental Security Income

Recently, a 46-year-old McHenry County woman received a favorable decision for her claim for Supplemental Security Income. She has a high school diploma, received by GED, and had been self-employed as a maid. Prior to that she worked at a number of jobs, including as a cashier. Her medications include Celexa, Lithium, Amitriptyline, Darvocet, Ultram, Fluphenaxine, Albuterol, and Citalopram.

She suffers from several severe impairments, the administrative law judge ruled, including: degenerative disease of the lumbar spine and shoulder, bipolar disorder, manic disorder, personality disorder, and asthma. These impairments cause more than minimal functional limitations, the judge said, and said his “fully favorable” decision is warranted based on the claimant’s mental impairments. And though there was some evidence of substance abuse, the judge ruled that “substance use disorder is not a contributing factor material to the determination of disability.”

She had been injured in an automobile accident, which caused fractures of her spine, comminuted and displaced fracture of a clavicle and fractures of the sternum and ribs; the injuries required surgery on her spine by open reduction and other issues. She was in a second accident about 18 months later. Doctors reported her as completely disabled.

Her claim was for Supplemental Security Income, which pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources. Social Security Disability benefits are paid from the disability trust fund, while supplemental security income (SSI) benefits are paid from general tax revenues. While those who receive either benefits must meet the SSA’s disability criteria, those receiving disability benefits must have paid a sufficient number of quarters into FICA; those receiving SSI must have limited income and resources. SSI benefits are NOT based on prior work history. For 2012, the maximum SSI benefit is $698 a month for an individual and $1,048 for a couple (increased from $674 and $1,011, respectively, in 2011). Some states also supplement the federal SSI benefit with additional payments, depending upon income, living arrangements, and other factors.