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Understanding SSI benefits

The United States Social Security Administration runs three programs that provide income to qualifying individuals. Most persons in Ohio understand ordinary social security benefits: persons who have paid money into the program through a tax on their income and who have reached the qualifying age are eligible to receive monthly benefits. Social Security disability (SSD) benefits are paid to persons who are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity. The third program is known as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and this program differs from the other two in several important respects.

SSI benefits are intended to provide income assistance for persons who are blind, disabled or 65 years old with limited income and resources. The money comes not from a special tax on income, such as the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) that funds ordinary Social Security benefits, but from general revenue funds in the U.S. Treasury. A person can qualify for SSI benefits and still receive other kinds of assistance, such as Medicaid and Medicare and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Payments (formerly food stamps). Unlike normal social security benefits, SSI benefits do not depend upon a person's income history. Most states, including Ohio, pay and administer a program of payments in addition to SSI paid by the Social Security Administration.

The Social Security Administration provides a number of tools to assist applicants for SSI benefits, but the application and evaluation process can nevertheless seem complicated and intimidating. An applicant must provide medical evidence of disability, a list of all income sources and assets owned (such as automobiles, real property, clothing and other personal property). Certain assets are not counted, such as the applicant's homestead, one vehicle if it use used to transport the applicant. Sorting out these exceptions can be burdensome. In 2016, the maximum SSI federal benefit is $733. A person's income is subtracted from the federal rate, and the difference is the amount of monthly benefits. If a person's income and other resources, after subtractions and other adjustments exceed $733, the person is not eligible for SSI benefits.

As with other Social Security benefit programs, the SSI program provides for several levels of appeals from an adverse decision. Anyone who wishes to apply for SSI benefits or appeal from an adverse decision may benefit from consulting a lawyer who specializes in SSA benefit law. Such a consultation can provide a helpful analysis of the applicant's eligibility and the likelihood of approval of the application.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Understanding Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Overview -- 2016 Edition," accessed on April 10, 2016

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Philip J. Fulton Law OfficeRepresenting Victims Of Workplace Injuries And Disability

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