Applying for SSI

When you’re applying for SSI, you need a lawyer who understands the process and can help you every step of the way. Many lawyers won’t represent individuals applying for SSI. They may say to call them back if you’re denied. That doesn’t make sense to us. Why would you wait until you’re denied? At ARM Lawyers, we’ve found that when we help individuals apply for SSI we get better results than those who aren’t represented by an attorney. With us, there’s no need to wait to be denied. We’d rather help you try to win from the very beginning.

Millions of adults in the United States have a disability that renders them unable to perform basic tasks, such as working. While Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is in place for those who are “insured” by virtue of paying into the Social Security account throughout their working years, others don’t qualify for SSDI.

However, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is intended for children and adults who have a qualifying disability, or those over the age of 65, who have limited income and resources. If you think that you or your child may qualify for SSI, here’s what you need to know to apply for SSI.

Who can apply for SSI?

Those who can apply for SSI are adults with a disability, children with a disability, anyone who is blind, and adults aged 65 and older. In addition to meeting the disability and/or age requirements, a person also must have limited resources and income. We discuss the income and asset limitations more thoroughly in our article about hiring an SSI lawyer.

Additionally, in order to qualify for SSI benefits, you must be a citizen or U.S. national, be living within the United States and not be confined to an institution such as a prison. Furthermore, your disability or blindness must meet the criteria set forth by the Social Security Administration.

If you are eligible to apply for SSI, you should speak with an SSI attorney immediately. We can review your case with you before you start. This helps us to put forth the strongest possible case from the very beginning. We will even prepare and submit the application for you. This ensures that it is completed correctly and that the answers are as thorough as possible. This also ensures that any special circumstances are addressed before your case is opened.

What is the Social Security Disability application process?

When applying for SSI, the process can take anywhere from four to six months. If you are applying for SSI with our office, we would schedule an appointment to speak with you to gather all necessary information. We would complete the SSI application with you and submit it to the Social Security Administration.

What information do I need when applying for SSI?

Unlike the application for SSDI, an SSI application cannot be filed online. As such, we help you prepare a paper application when necessary. When you file your application, you’ll need the following documents.

  • Social Security number and card.
  • proof of age.
  • citizenship or alien status record.
  • proof of income.
  • proof of resources.
  • proof of living arrangements.
  • medical sources if filing for blindness or a disability.
  • work history.
  • and, contact information for people who can testify to a disability and an IEP report, if applying on the behalf of a child.

The application is very detailed, and if not completed in full, it may be denied.

What happens after my SSI application is filed?

After your application is filed, the Social Security Administration will review it. Because any incomplete applications will be denied, it is essential that you fill out your application in full and attach any necessary documents.

The first thing that happens after applying for SSI is the Social Security Administration reviews your file for eligibility. Mainly, SSA conducts a brief income and asset analysis to determine if you’re financially eligible. If you are preliminary eligible, your file is transferred to “Disability Determination Services” or “DDS”. This is the office that makes the decision on your claim.

DDS will gather your medical records and may request a you see one of Social Security’s doctors (called a “consultative examiner”). You may be required to fill out some additional documentation such as a “Function Report” or “Work History Report”. These reports give DDS information about how your medical impairments affect you. It’s one thing to read your medical records, but it’s another to hear your story about how your impairments affect your life.

After DDS gathers all of the evidence on your case, a “medical consultant” may review your file. This is a doctor who is trained in the requirements for disability. That doctor gives his opinion on what your limitations may be.

At that point, DDS would make a final decision on your case. SSA will mail its decision to you and if we’re representing you, they would also mail the decision to us. Your claim would either be approved or denied.

Image: The process when applying for SSI.

What happens if my SSI application is granted?

If you’re approved, great! In most cases, you will begin receiving benefits. You should expect a “Notice of Award” that explains how much you will be receiving. This includes back benefit payments as well as your monthly benefit payments. We like to review these to ensure they are accurate.

What happens if my SSI application is denied?

If you’re denied, don’t worry. Many cases are denied at this level. In fact, only about 35% of initial applications for benefits are approved. When a claim for disability benefits is denied, the first step of fighting the decision is to file a request for reconsideration. The reconsideration process for disability claims involves a thorough review of your case and application. You have 60 days from the date you receive the denial of your application for benefits. Like the application process itself, the appeals process is also lengthy, has multiple stage, and requires gathering important documentation and information.

When would I receive my medical coverage if I’m on SSI?

If you are receiving SSDI, you would be eligible for medicare after 24 months of eligibility. That does not mean that you have to wait 24 months from when you start receiving benefits, but it does mean that you must be “eligible” for benefits for 24 months. Your “Notice of Award” would explain your “eligibility date”. From that point, you can add two years to the eligibility date. You will be eligible for medicare as of that date.

If you are receiving SSI rather than SSDI, you would not be eligible for medicare, but would instead be eligible for medicaid. You would be immediately eligible for medicaid.

Can I work while applying for SSI?

Technically, yes, you can work while applying for SSI, but this is not necessarily advisable. To start, when you are applying for SSI, you are stating that you are unable to work full time. Working, even part time, can tend to show that you are capable of working. This can hurt your chances of winning your application. That being said, you can work while applying for SSI, but it will directly impact the amount of money you receive.

How much money can I make while applying for SSI?

There is a hard limit of amount of money you can make before you are disqualified from receiving SSI. In 2020, that amount is $1,260 per month, gross (before taxes). This is called the “substantial gainful activity” limit.

But, you shouldn’t view this as a license to earn up to the limit. The closer you are to the limit, the more suspect your claim. If you’re making $1,250 per month for example, a judge may think that you are intentionally working under the limit. This could hurt your chances of success.

Additionally, the amount of money you receive from SSI will be reduced depending on how much you work. Your benefits are reduced by $0.50 for every dollar you earn over $85. For example, if you make $585 in a given month, your benefits would be reduced by $250 ($585 – $85 = $500 / 2 = $250). If you were to receive the full federal benefit rate of $783 per month, making $585 would reduce your SSI benefit to $533 per month.

You have the best chance of success if you are not working at all. If, however, you decide to work, just be aware that your benefits will be reduced based on your earnings and that there is a hard limit of $1260 per month.

Are SSI benefits retroactive?

One of the most common questions we get when applying for SSI is whether the benefit payments will be retroactive. When you’re applying for SSI, your benefits will only be retroactive to the date of application. That means that if you’ve been out of work for months or years before you apply for SSI, you can still only get benefits back to the date you filed the application.

If you’re awarded benefits, you would receive back benefits back to the date you applied.

Do I need an attorney to apply for SSI?

While you can certainly apply for SSI without an attorney, this isn’t recommended. Too many people who apply for SSI on their own are denied over technical issues in the application that could have been prevented if the application was completed with a top SSI attorney.

The Social Security Administration denies many initial claims every year. Many claims are denied because they’re incomplete or completed incorrectly. Unfortunately, many individuals who truly qualify for and need the SSI benefits are denied. In order to ensure that your claim has the highest chance possible of being approved, you should have a disability attorney who knows the system help you file the application.

Patrick J. Best of ARM Lawyers has helped thousands of individuals get their SSI benefits. To get started on filing your claim today, call our offices now. The best part is that we can start the whole process over the phone or by video conference so you don’t even need to come into the office!