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What is Supplemental Security Income?

Does a disability prevent you or your loved one from earning a full-time income? You are far from alone. Many people and families are in similar circumstances. Social Security disability benefits (SSD benefits) are a much-needed option for financial support. The Social Security Administration (SSA) reports that nearly 10 million people are currently receiving SSD benefits. 

Notably, SSD benefits are paid through two different programs — Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the lesser-known Supplemental Security Income (SSI). At The Law Office of Paul J. Dombeck, PLLC, we help people secure full and fair SSI benefits. In this article, our Phoenix Supplemental Security Income attorney provides a comprehensive guide to SSI claims in Arizona. 

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Needs-Based Federal Disability Program 

The SSA explains that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program that is “designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income.”Here is one of the most important things to know about SSI: Unlike SSDI, SSI is not funded through payroll taxes. Instead, the funds come directly out of general federal revenue. Why does this matter? Unlike with SSDI, an applicant does not need to have any work history to qualify for SSI benefits. You can bring an SSI claim based solely on financial need and disability status. 

There are Strict Income and Resource Limits to Qualify for SSI Disability Benefits

As noted above, SSI is a disability program that is based on financial need. There are strict income limits and asset limits. Here are the key things to know about qualifying for SSI on the basis of income and assets: 

  • SSI Disability Income Limit: Your unearned income—income that does not come from wages—will be evaluated by the SSA when you file an SSI disability claim. For 2022, the income limit to qualify for SSI is $861 per person and $1,281 for a married couple. Though, certain types of unearned income may be excluded from the count.
  • SSI Disability Asset Limit: To qualify for SSI benefits, you cannot have more than $2,000 in financial resources. For married couples, that number rises to $3,000. However, some key assets—including a primary residence and one vehicle—are excluded from the count. Do not assume that you are ineligible based on your assets without speaking to a lawyer. 

Qualifying for SSI Disability Benefits Also Requires Proving Medical Eligibility 

To qualify for SSI benefits for a disability, an applicant must be prepared to present compelling and comprehensive medical evidence. The SSA will carefully review an SSI  claim to ensure that the applicant can prove that they have a sufficiently severe disabling medical condition. 

The medical evidence must establish that the applicant’s medical condition is severe enough to interfere with at least two basic work activities. Additionally, the applicant must show that their disability will last for at least 12 months, or that it is expected to result in their death. 

If an applicant does not have sufficient medical evidence to support their disability claim, his or her claim may be denied on those grounds. Indeed, approximately one-third of all Social Security disability denials are medical denials—meaning the SSA rejected benefits because it determined that the applicant failed to produce sufficient medical evidence.   

Supplemental Security Income: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Does the SSA Define “Disability” for Supplemental Security Income Claims?

The SSA has a broad and comprehensive set of standards that are used to determine whether or not a person is “disabled” for the purposes of the law. Here are three key things that you need to prove to meet the medical standards to qualify for SSI disability benefits in Arizona: 

  • You have medical documentation that shows a severe physical or psychological impairment; 
  • Your condition is either life-threatening or likely to have a 12-month (+) duration; and
  • Your condition prevents you from engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity (work). 

How Much Can I Expect to Receive in SSI Benefits if My Claim is Approved?

Your disability benefits will depend on a number of different factors. That being said, many (but not all) SSI applicants who are eligible to receive these disability benefits can qualify for the maximum payment. The SSA recently announced the official SSI Federal Payment Amounts For 2023

  • $914 per person; and 
  • $1,371 per married couple.  

Can I Appeal the Denial of My SSI Disability Claim?

Yes. You have the right to appeal the denial of SSI disability benefits. A significant number of people who are initially denied SSI benefits are able to get approved on appeal. You should be proactive. As a general rule, a request for reconsideration (initial appeal) should be filed within 60 days of the date that you received your denial letter.

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