Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal needs-based program designed to provide financial support to people who are disabled and cannot work to earn a living.
If you have limited work history and are suffering from a mental or physical disability, you may be eligible to receive SSI benefits. Unfortunately, seeking these benefits can be easier said than done. The application process is complicated and can be a burden on disabled individuals and their families.
For this reason, it’s in your best interest to consult an experienced SSI lawyer who is familiar with the Social Security system. At the Law Offices of Dr. Bill LaTour, we assist clients throughout Southern California with their SSI applications and appeals. Our legal team will evaluate your claim and ensure you have all the documentation needed to obtain SSI benefits.
SSI is one of two disability programs offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The second is known as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Both programs provide monthly benefits to disabled individuals, so many applicants confuse the two programs or don’t know there’s a difference.
The two programs do share some medical eligibility requirements, however, they are separate programs with distinct purposes. SSI benefits are specifically available for low-income individuals with limited access to resources. SSI recipients are commonly adults whose disabilities have prevented them from ever entering the workforce. People who aren’t disabled but are 65 or older and meet certain financial criteria may also obtain SSI benefits.
To receive SSDI benefits, on the other hand, you are required to have worked a job that has paid into Social Security for a certain number of years. SSI provides a monthly payment to help recipients meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.
The SSA has several requirements that applicants must meet in order to be approved for SSI benefits. You may be eligible if:
If you are under 65 years of age, you must suffer from a qualifying disability that doesn’t allow you to hold a job. The SSA uses strict criteria when determining whether an impairment counts as a ‘disability.’ If your condition does not meet the following medical requirements, the SSA will likely not consider you to be disabled:
The SSA only considers total disabilities for SSI payments, meaning you must be unable to continue your current job or any previous jobs you have held in the past. Furthermore, you must be unable to work in any other field for which you are qualified.
In disability determinations, the SSA’s claims examiners will use the Blue Book, which lists impairments that the agency automatically considers to be qualifying disabilities. If your condition is not already listed here, the claims examiner will review what’s known as your residual functional capacity (RFC) to determine whether your condition is disabling.
The RFC form is an assessment of your capabilities that demonstrates the nature of your condition and how severely it affects your everyday life. With this in mind, your medical records and other documentation from your doctor are vitally important to the success of your claim. A claims examiner will expect to see solid proof of your diagnosis, treatment, and how the condition limits you.
In addition to the medical criteria, you must also fall under the SSA’s income limitations in order to be approved for SSI benefits.
This is a strict requirement because SSI is intended to help low-income individuals account for everyday essentials. In order to ensure benefits are only being paid to low-income individuals, the SSA sets an income limit every year.
The SSA considers the following to count towards the income limit:
If your combined income from any of these sources exceeds the set limit, you will likely not be eligible for SSI benefits. However, there are some exceptions. Our SSI lawyers can review your claim and help you understand what income counts and doesn’t count towards the limit.
The SSA also places limits on your resources. In order to receive SSI payments, your combined resources must not be worth a set amount dictated by the SSA each year. These resources include:
Similar to your income, there are certain resources that are exempt from the resource limit. In other words, you may still qualify for benefits even if the worth of your resources is higher than the set limit. Our legal team can determine if any of your resources should not be counted towards the limit to help you receive the full amount of benefits you deserve.
If you applied for SSI benefits and were denied, don’t lose hope. It is common for the SSA to deny disability claims but it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to receive benefits. In some cases, applicants who are initially denied are able to obtain benefits through the appeals process.
After receiving notice of a denial, you will have the opportunity to file a request asking the SSA to reconsider its decision regarding your SSI application. This stage of the appeals process is known as ‘reconsideration.’ A different claims examiner will evaluate your claim and make a decision. If any forms were missing from your initial application, you may add them to your file before the reconsideration.
If your claim is denied a second time, you may then request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). At this stage, you will appear in front of the judge and present your case. Witnesses, such as doctors who have treated you, may speak at the hearing to support your claim. If the ALJ also denies your claim, you may continue through to the federal court level.
While an attorney is not required during the reconsideration or hearing, the appeals process can be complex and lengthy without legal representation. If the SSA has already denied your initial claim for SSI benefits, our legal team can help you face those complexities and give you the best chance for a successful appeal.
The team at the Law Offices of Dr. Bill LaTour works exclusively in assisting clients with their applications and/or appeals for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If you need help at any stage of the claims process for SSI benefits, please don’t hesitate to call our office today at (800) 803-5090, or fill out our contact form below to schedule a free consultation.
When questions arise, our SSI lawyers are here to help. We’re dedicated to seeing Southern California residents obtain the disability benefits they deserve.