What Is SSI?
Disabled individuals who don’t meet the qualifications for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits may instead be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from the federal government. In addition to federal SSI benefits, Illinois residents may also be able to access funds from the state of Illinois through the supplemental payment (SSP) or AABD Cash Assistance program.
SSD benefits are funded through payroll taxes that are directed to the Social Security program. The benefits are available to disabled people who are no longer able to work, but have contributed to the Social Security fund through employment in the past.
SSI is an option for disabled people who haven’t been able to work long enough, or recently enough, to be eligible for disability benefits. SSI is a federal needs-based program for low-income individuals that is funded through general tax revenue.
The program is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people with little to no income with cash benefits to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.
Are You Eligible for SSI?
Any citizen residing in the United States, who is 65 years of age or older, or is blind or disabled, and has limited income and limited resources, may be eligible for SSI. Children under the age of 18 with a medical diagnosis of physical or mental impairment that meets the definition of disabled that is set out by the Social Security Administration (SSA) may be eligible for SSI benefits. The adult definition of disability is applied to individuals over 18 years of age.
Asset and Income Requirements for SSI
SSI is a means-tested program that responds to financial need. There are strict limits on the amount of income and assets you can have to be able to access SSI benefits. To qualify for SSI, you must have less than $2,000 in assets, or $3,000 for a couple, and a limited income. The income limit is based on the federal benefit rate (FBR), which represents both the SSI income limit and the maximum federal monthly SSI payment.
Your monthly income cannot exceed the FBR in order to qualify for SSI, but only some of your income is counted when evaluating whether it is over the income limit. For example, when you are earning income through employment, less than half of monthly earnings are counted towards the income limit — the earned income exclusion.
The income of the entire household is considered by the SSA when determining your eligibility for SSI. For a married couple, the incomes of both people are included as countable, even if only one person is medically eligible for SSI benefits. However, only part of the spouse’s income will be counted as part of the applicant’s income.
For a child applicant, part of the parents’ income is included toward the SSI income limit.
Amount of SSI Benefits
The FBR for 2019 is $771 per month for individuals and $1,157 for couples. The rate is adjusted annually to account for cost-of-living increases.The amount an eligible person will receive is dependent on where they live and the amount of regular, monthly income they have. The earned income exclusion allows you to deduct a certain amount of your income before it is subtracted from SSI benefits. You can subtract $65 of your earned income and another $20 for earned or unearned income. The remaining amount will be subtracted from your SSI payments. Most people who qualify for SSI will also qualify for food stamps.
If you are receiving shelter and/or food from someone that you don’t need to pay for, SSA counts this as in-kind support and maintenance and subtracts it from the SSI payment.
SSI benefits will begin on the first of the month when you first submit your application.
Illinois SSI Supplemental Payment
Illinois residents who receive SSI payments may be eligible for additional funds from the state of Illinois, called the state supplemental payment (SSP) or AABD ( Aged, Blind and Disabled) Cash Assistance program. The SSP is administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS).
The amount of the Illinois SSI supplement is calculated by subtracting the recipient’s monthly maintenance costs from the amount of the SSI payment, plus any other income. When the maintenance costs exceed the income amount, Illinois will pay the individual additional amounts for food, clothing, shelter, utilities, and more. The amounts are based on allowable maximums for certain items and described in the DHS policy manual.
You don’t automatically qualify for Medicaid if you are approved for SSI in Illinois, but you do qualify if you are approved for AABD Cash Assistance.
Applying for SSI
While SSI is administered by the federal government, states assist Social Security with the process. You can apply for SSI online (through the online disability application), by telephone, or at the local SSA office. You may also have someone else call and make the appointment for you or assist you with your application for SSI.
Apply for AABD Case Assistance at the Illinois Department of Human Services website or at the local DHS office. Residents of Cook County can apply at the district DHS office.
Applying for SSI can be a cumbersome and difficult process, ensuring all paperwork is completed and returned in a timely manner, representing yourself in a court hearing if needed, all the meanwhile dealing with your ailments. Consider the Good Law Group for your representation.