Understanding Your Disability Benefits Is Difficult.
Our Los Angeles Social Security Lawyers Are Here to Make it Easier.
The federal benefit rate (FBR) is the maximum dollar amount an individual who qualifies for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits can receive per month. The FBR is also commonly referred to as the ‘SSI standard payment amount’ or the ‘federal payment standard.’
The maximum amount of monthly benefits you can obtain under SSI in 2019 is $771 for an eligible individual and $1,157 for an eligible married couple.
At the Law Offices of Dr. Bill LaTour, we know how scary it can be to suffer a disabling injury or illness. While the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers programs, such as SSI, to provide financial assistance to disabled individuals, the process of applying for benefits is often complex and stressful. From understanding the federal benefit rate to ensuring you have all the necessary paperwork, our Los Angeles Social Security lawyers are here to guide you every step of the way.
How Is the FBR Determined?
While the figures for 2019 have been established, the FBR is periodically adjusted based on the ‘consumer price index.’
The consumer price indexing process tracks the cost of essential and common goods and services in order to determine changes in living expenses from year to year. If the consumer price index increases, then a ‘cost of living’ adjustment will be made to the FBR. However, if there is no increase, the FBR may remain the same.
Cost of living adjustments are applied every year on January first and subsequently affect the FBR received by individuals and couples who are SSI beneficiaries.
What Are SSI Benefits?
SSI is a disability program managed by the Social Security Administration. It is intended for aged, blind, or disabled individuals with little job experience and limited access to resources.
In order to receive SSI benefits, you must meet the strict eligibility requirements set forth by the SSA:
- You have little or no resources and income.
- The SSA determined that you are medically disabled.
- You are a U.S. citizen or a non-citizen that meets further requirements.
- You live in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands.
- You are not capable of any ‘substantial gainful activity.’ In other words, you are unable to work due to your condition.
If you fall under the above criteria, you may qualify for SSI benefits. Only after you file a disability claim and are approved by the SSA can you start receiving benefits. The federal benefit rate in the year that you are approved will determine the highest amount that you can receive.
For more information, read the SSA’s 2019 guide on SSI benefits.
Factors That Affect Your SSI Benefits
Although the FBR in 2019 is $771 for individuals and $1,157 for married couples, every SSI recipient will not qualify to receive the full FBR. It’s important to keep in mind that these FBR figures simply represent the maximum amount available under SSI.
Everyone does not get the same benefits. You may receive less than the FBR depending on your unique situation. Here are some of the factors that can impact the amount of SSI benefits you’re entitled to:
Assets and Countable Income
When determining whether you’re entitled to SSI disability benefits, the SSA will look at your total assets (the things you own) and ‘countable income’ (earnings from work or other sources).
SSI is designed to provide financial assistance to individuals with limited income and assets. Therefore, you cannot qualify for SSI benefits if you have countable income that exceeds the FBR. If you have some countable income – lower than the FBR – your monthly SSI payments will be reduced by that amount.
Similarly, your total assets must be worth less than the resource limit to be eligible for benefits. Your car and the house you live in will not count towards the limit. However, you cannot own two houses and a boat and receive SSI benefits.
While you generally cannot have countable income higher than the FBR, the SSA does not count all income towards the limit. In other words, there are instances where some of your earnings may not be reduced from your disability benefits.
Determining how your countable income will impact your benefits can be complicated. For this reason, it’s wise to speak with an experienced disability lawyer who can accurately calculate the amount you’re entitled to.
In addition to income, your living arrangements can also affect your SSI benefits. The following living arrangements will be a factor in determining the level of benefits you are eligible to receive:
- A single individual living in his or her own household
- A disabled child living with his or her parents in their household
- A married individual and his or her ineligible spouse living in their own household
- A married couple, both of whom are eligible for SSI
Age and Type of Disability or Impairment
Your age and the type of disability or impairment you claim can have an impact on your benefits. SSI is available for low-income individuals aged 65 years or older. If you’re younger than 65, but have a disabling condition that meets the SSA’s medical requirements, you may still qualify for SSI.
In most cases, individuals applying for SSI must meet the same criteria regardless of their specific disability. However, there are special circumstances for individuals with certain impairments. For example, SSI payments are generally higher for blind beneficiaries.
The SSA states, “There are a number of special rules for people who are blind that recognize the severe impact of blindness on a person’s ability to work.” In 2019, the monthly earnings limit for blind individuals is $2,040.
Contact an Attorney to Better Understand Your Benefits
People often underestimate how difficult it can be to apply for Social Security disability. The amount of paperwork and information required is overwhelming for many applicants. A knowledgeable attorney who’s experienced with the system will be a valuable resource when filing an SSI claim.
At The Law Offices of Dr. Bill LaTour, we exclusively handle SSDI and SSI disability applications and appeals. We have helped disabled individuals in Los Angeles and across Southern California obtain the financial assistance they deserve. If you need help applying for SSI or just want to understand how rules, like the federal benefit rate, might affect your benefits, contact our Los Angeles Social Security lawyers today.
You can call our office at (800) 803-5090 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation.