What is SSI?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a monthly wage replacement benefit provided by the Federal Government and administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Unlike Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which requires SSDI applicants to have paid taxes, worked, and earned work credits to qualify for benefits, SSI applicants must be aged (65 years or older), blind, or disabled, be unable to work for at least 12 continuous months, and be a U.S. citizen or U.S. national (exceptions exist).
In addition to the requirements outline above, SSI applicants must also meet strict income and resources limits to qualify. Resources can include money or items which can be converted to cash, including stocks, bonds, bank account balances, and property. To qualify for SSI the current resource limit is $2,000 per person and $3,000 per couple. Not all resources count towards the resource limit. For example, resource exemptions can include the house in which you live, one vehicle, life insurance policies with a face value of $1,500 or less per person, burial plots, household goods, and property used for trade.
Claimants must also meet income limits to qualify for SSI benefits. Calculating income can be a bit complicated. For example, income can include earned income from a job, but it can also include unemployment benefits, SSA retirement benefits, and food and shelter provided by friends and family.
In 2018, an SSI claimant may earn $750 in countable income and still qualify for SSI benefits. Keep in mind, however, that not all income is countable. It may be possible to earn more than $750 and still receive some SSI benefits. Talk to a disability lawyer or the Social Security Administration if you have questions about whether you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits.
How can Higgins & Associates help a claimant receive SSI benefits?
Unfortunately, filing for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits can be very time-consuming and confusing. Millions of applicants file for disability benefits each year, and it can take months, or even years, for some claimants to win benefits. Although a disability lawyer cannot move an application to the front of the line, they can help expedite the approval process by increasing your chances of getting approved at every step of the disability application and appeal process.
First, Higgins and Associates can provide information about the disability process. Next, they can review your disability claim and determine if you meet the necessary nonmedical and medical requirements to qualify for SSI benefit. Next, assuming you meet the nonmedical requirements for SSI, our disability lawyers can determine whether you have sufficient medical evidence to prove your health condition is so severe that you cannot work for at least 12 continuous months.
Unfortunately, even with strong legal counsel, it is likely your SSI application will be denied the first time you apply for SSI benefits. If you receive a denial, Higgins and Associates can help you file a reconsideration appeal within 60 days from the date of the initial denial. If your claim is denied a second time, they can help you request an Administrative Hearing.
At the hearing level, Higgins and Associates can help collect and submit all necessary medical evidence to prove your disability claim, obtain additional opinions from your doctors, and complete a legal brief to submit to the Administrative Law Judge which provides a concise outline of your case. A Higgins and Associate disability lawyer will attend the administrative hearing with you and provide evidence to the court that you are disabled and unable to work.
How much will a disability lawyer cost?
The cost to hire a disability lawyer is regulated by federal law. Disability lawyers do not generally charge any money up-front to take a claimant’s case and are paid on a contingency fee, which means they are paid only if they win the case.
Under federal law, disability lawyers are allowed to charge a fee which is limited to 25% of the backpay benefits owed to the claimant, up to a maximum of $6,000. If a claimant is not entitled to backpay benefits, the disability lawyer will not receive a fee.
Disability claimants who have hired a disability lawyer, win their claim, and have backpay benefits will have the attorney’s fees deducted from their disability check before it is sent to them.
(Note: under some conditions, a lawyer may be allowed to file a fee petition to request a higher fee or request to be paid some fees even if backpay benefits are not awarded) Talk to your disability lawyer if you have questions about their fee structure and how much they will be paid.
How much Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will I be paid?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) monthly payments are based on the federal benefit rate (FBR). The rate is periodically increased. In 2018, the federal benefit rate is $750 per month for individuals and $1,125 for couples. Certain states also provide state supplemental payments which may increase the SSI payments for SSI claimants in those states. It is important to note, however, that SSI recipients may have their SSI payments reduced each month if they generate countable income and other types of monetary and nonmonetary support. Talk to the SSA if you intend to work or generate income. Failure to report income each month can result in SSA overpayments which must be repaid.
Generally, SSI claimants will also qualify for Medicare benefits. The process to receive benefits, however, can vary by state. Contact the SSA if you have questions about receiving Medicare benefits in your state.
When Should I hire an SSI lawyer?
Unfortunately, the disapproval rate for first time disability applicants can be as high as 60 to 70%. With this in mind, many claimants may benefit from discussing their SSI claim with a Higgins and Associates disability lawyer before they apply for SSI benefits. If, however, you have already applied for SSI benefits, it might be beneficial to wait until after you have received your first SSI disability denial to contact a disability lawyer.
If your SSI disability claim is denied, you may be allowed to file an appeal. The appeal must be filed within 60 days from the date of your denial. For most claimants, this is generally the best time to contact a disability lawyer. They can review your disability denial, determine whether you have a solid case, evaluate your medical records, determine if you need to strengthen your case, and help you file your reconsideration (or in certain states request a disability hearing).