Eligibility for and Quirkiness of SSI (Social Security Income).
To be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), an individual has to be aged (65 or older), blind or disabled, and have limited income and resources. Normally the person who is eligible to receive SSI does have enough of a work history to be eligible to receive disability insurance benefits. A person must work about 10 years before becoming eligible for Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI). For a person to be able to receive SSI, he/she would not be able to own monthly resources worth more than $2,000.00. The amount a couple is allowed to own is $3,000.00.
The tricky part about eligibility for SSI: there are several rules governing an individual’s circumstances. For example, a disabled individual can be disqualified from receiving benefits for SSI if he/she is not present in the U.S. for 30 consecutive days or more, is confined to a hospital or incarcerated for 30 days or more, or receives monthly social security disability insurance benefits, where the amount received is too high to receive continued SSI benefits.
Eligibility for SSI is also dependent on what an individual owns. For example, a person can own a home, as long as he/she is using it for his/her residence. If the person is not living in the house, it is presumed to be a “resource”, and will probably make the person ineligible. One can own a car, but as long as one is using it for transportation. One can own a burial space, but as long as it is being held for use, by the individual, a spouse or immediate family members. In addition to the burial space, an individual is allowed to own $1,500.00 for a burial fund. Burial funds are those related to funeral expenses for an individual or spouse. If a bank account is set up for this purpose, it must be clearly designated as such. This can be accomplished by titling the account as a burial fund, signing a statement indicating that the fund is for burial expenses, identifying whose burial the money is set aside for, the amount of money designated as a burial fund. The burial fund may not be placed in the same account as funds intended to be used for unrelated expenses. If you spend any money from a burial fund on items unrelated to burial expenses, there may be a penalty.
Another quirky aspect of SSI eligibility is that a disabled person can own $100,000.00 in an ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) account, and still remain eligible for SSI. The funds in an ABLE account must only be used for designated disability expenses. Examples of “designated disability expenses” include healthcare costs, assistive technology, personal support services, employment training expenses and educational expensive. Social Security regulations concerning an individual’s eligibility for SSI is extremely complicated. If you have questions concerning whether you are eligible for SSI, contact the Attorneys at Pyfer Reese Straub Gray & Farhat PC, Linda F. Gerencser or Gabriella Hashem Farhat, and we will be glad to help you navigate this process.
By: Linda F. Gerencser, Esquire