In Depth: Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Title XVI: SSI
- SSI is a needs-based program that pays monthly benefits to disabled people who cannot engage in substantial gainful activity due to a serious illness or impairment that is expected to last at least a year or to result in death.
- Substantial gainful activity (SGA) involves the performance of significant physical or mental activities, or a combination of both. Work activity performed on a part-time basis may also be considered SGA. Earnings averaging over $1,090/month (for 2015) demonstrate SGA. A higher SGA is applied for blind workers ($1,820).
- Benefits are based on financial need, not work history or earned credits.
- The monthly maximum Federal benefit amount is $733 for an eligible individual and $1,100 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse.
- There will be no cost of living adjustment increase in Federal benefits in 2016.
- SSI recipients will be eligible for their first payment on the first of the month after they apply for disability. Because SSA takes at least a few months to grant disability benefits (sometimes years for those in the appeal process), recipients will likely receive several month’s payments in SSI back payments.
- In most states, individuals awarded Supplemental Security Income (SSI) become eligible for Medicaid.
Client was a 47 year old high school graduate with a long-standing history of alcohol abuse. Client claimed disability as a result of cirrhosis, diabetes, and kidney disease. SSA denied her claim citing alcohol abuse as a contributing factor to her impairments. It was our burden to prove that Client would still have these impairments despite abstaining from alcohol use. Client started a recovery program and was able to demonstrate sobriety. I worked closely with a ClaimAid Patient Advocate to provide medical records that demonstrated Client’s condition was not improving despite sobriety. Client was approved benefits and now has the medical coverage she needs for a liver transplant.