Does Your Child Qualify for Supplemental Security Income? Dispelling Misconceptions
SSI continues to evaluate beneficiary resources as long as payments are being made. Having more than $1,170 in income and/or more than $2,000 in assets will reduce or eliminate SSI benefits. Since SSI is intended for food and shelter, payments will also decrease if someone besides the beneficiary helps to pay such expenses.
This can get tricky for individuals who are no longer in high school (age 18/22) and living with family members. In order to receive their full SSI payment, a rental-and-food agreement should be put in place and paid with SSI funds. You can learn more about this complicated subject here.
An important caveat: It doesn’t affect SSI if family members and SNTs pay vendors directly for goods and services on behalf of the individual—with the exception of food and shelter.
Yes, You Can Work
Having a career is an important avenue to independence, but many would-be job seekers are afraid that once employed, they’ll immediately lose benefits. They worry that if they accept a position that doesn’t work out or their disability worsens, it’ll be difficult to get reinstated. Not so.
The government wants to encourage individuals to become as self-sufficient as possible. For that reason, the Social Security Administration has numerous programs designed to provide a safety net while SSI recipients test the workplace. In fact, the agency’s Ticket to Work provides free employment services to SSI recipients through approved providers.
Another program, Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) enables individuals to set aside funds to cover expenses they’ll face while preparing for employment. Such resources are exempt from SSI calculations.
An unmarried individual can have a maximum of $741 per month in earned/unearned income after accounting for disability-related work expenses and an earned income exclusion of up to $85. They can deduct job-related expenses even if they’re also related to non-work activities, such as medications and assistive technology. Students under 22 can exclude as much as $1,790 per month, up to a maximum of $7,200 annually. If earnings temporarily exceed the limit, then drop, they can be reinstated without reapplying. If they stop working within five years of losing SSI, Expedited Reinstatement entitles them to up to six months of cash benefits while a medical review is conducted.
So, if you haven’t applied for SSI for your child, be sure you’re not overlooking an important public benefit. And if you’ve been turned down in the past, consider appealing. SSI is the bedrock on which thousands of individuals with disabilities build their financial security.
Scott C. Suzuki, Esq., is the immediate past president of the Special Needs Alliance (SNA®), a national nonprofit of attorneys committed to assisting individuals with disabilities, their families and the professionals who serve them.
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