Medicaid and SSI Applications
"Protecting Special Needs Children And Their Families"
SSI Lawyer for Massachusetts and Rhode Island
SSI is the basic federal safety net program for the elderly, blind and disabled, providing them with a minimum guaranteed income. Effective January 1, 2012, the maximum federal SSI benefit is $698 a month for an individual and $1,048 a month for a couple (normally, the amounts go up every January 1). These amounts are supplemented in most states.
Although the Social Security Administration (SSA) administers the program, eligibility for SSI benefits is based on financial need, not on how long you have worked or how much you have paid into the Social Security system. However, the financial eligibility rules are quite stringent. If you are seeking SSI benefits because you are disabled, the program's criteria for determining disability are the same as those outlined in the Social Security disability section.
About 6.6 million persons were receiving SSI payments in December 2000. Fifty-seven percent of these recipients were between the ages of 18 and 64, 30 percent were aged 65 or older, and 13 percent were under age 18. Many older persons who are not eligible for Social Security retirement benefits because they have not accumulated enough work credits may nevertheless be eligible for SSI, and even many of those receiving Social Security retirement benefits may be able to supplement their benefits with SSI payments. It is estimated that 1.5 million elderly who are potentially eligible for benefits never apply for them.
Fabisch Law, L.L.C.
Frequently Asked Questions About SSI
Am I eligible?
To be eligible for SSI:
The amount of income you can earn and still qualify for SSI differs from state to state. (For the income limits in your state, call 800-772-1213 or check with your local SSA office.) In many states, the income limit for eligibility is the same as the maximum federal benefit -- $698 a month for an individual and $1,048 for a couple in 2012. If your income falls below these thresholds, you are eligible for benefits. Your benefit will be the difference between your income and the SSI benefit in your state. For instance, if your own income is $400 a month, and the SSI benefit for a single individual in your state is $698 a month, you will receive an SSI check of $298 a month.
At some level, it may not seem worth the trouble to apply and stay eligible for SSI, but as is mentioned above, the ancillary benefits, especially Medicaid, may make it worthwhile to maintain SSI even if the financial payment is only a few dollars a month. If you are unsure whether your income is low enough, apply anyway. Certain sources of income and support are not counted in determining eligibility, and what may appear to you to be income may not be counted as such by your local Social Security or welfare office. Therefore, if you are living on a small fixed income and you have few resources (assets), it's worth applying for benefits.
In determining whether your income is low enough to qualify you for benefits, the SSA counts the money you earn in wages or from self-employment, as well as any investment income, pensions, annuities, gifts, rents and interest. Social Security and Veterans benefits are also considered income. Free housing received from friends or relatives may be counted as income as well, based on what such housing would cost in your area.
However, in totaling your income the SSA does not count:
As noted above, you can have no more than $2,000 in countable resources ($3,000 for a married couple living together) to be eligible for SSI. Countable resources (assets) include bank accounts, investments, real estate (other than your residence), and personal property. Also included is any money or property that you hold jointly with someone else. The SSA determines how much your partial ownership is worth and counts that as a resource.
However, certain property of value is not counted in determining eligibility for SSI, including:
Can I spend my "extra" money to qualify?
If your resources are still above these limits, you may be able to "spend down" to qualify for SSI, similar to the process to qualify for the Medicaid program. After you apply for benefits, you have a certain time period -- six months for real estate and three months for personal property and liquid assets -- to sell or spend your excess resources for fair market value and come under the benefit limits.
If you give away a resource or sell it for less than it is worth in order to get under the SSI resource limit, you may be ineligible for SSI for up to 36 months. The SSA looks at whether or not you have transferred a resource within the previous three years. If you have, it computes a penalty period by dividing the amount of the transfer by your monthly benefit amount.
Thus, if you give your son a $6,000 gift and then apply for a monthly SSI benefit of $600 within three years of the gift, you will not be eligible for SSI for 10 months (6,000/600=10). That 10-month period will begin on the date of the transfer and end 10 months later. In other words, although you can be ineligible for up to 36 months due to a transfer, that is only a cap. The actual period of ineligibility is based on the value of what you transferred divided by the monthly benefit in your state.
You should be aware that transfers may be "cured" by the person to whom you made a gift returning it to you. And, finally, there are certain exceptions to the transfer penalty. These include gifts to