Are There Any SSI Disability Benefits Commonly Missed?

You might be overlooking disability benefits that can help you.

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The Social Security Administration, or SSA, provides two different programs that can help disabled individuals. Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, offers larger payments, but requires that you have a work history. Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is based on financial need alone. Some SSI benefits might surprise you. You can speak with an SSA representative to ensure you don't miss any disability benefits.

SSI Basic Features

As of 2013, you can receive up to $710 a month in SSI payments, depending on your financial need. The SSA reduces your benefits 50 cents for each dollar you earn above $65 a month. You can receive food stamps, state assistance, food and shelter provided by nonprofit agencies, loans and bill payments by others without reducing your SSI benefits. If you are a student under age 22, you can earn up to $1,730 a month with a year’s limit of $6,960. You can’t own resources exceeding $2,000 in value, but the SSA doesn't count your home, its furnishings and one car when figuring your resources.

Plan to Achieve Self-Support

One benefit you don't want to miss is the Plan to Achieve Self-Support, or PASS. Under this program, you might qualify for SSI disability payments even if you earn too much money or have too many resources. A PASS is a written plan for getting a particular type of job or for starting your own business. Your plan identifies what job you want, the steps you’ll take to reach your job goal, the money you will spend to achieve your goal and a timetable to attain the job. The SSA doesn't count the money you spend on accomplishing your PASS objectives when computing your SSI benefits.

Impairment-Related Work Expenses

You can deduct certain out-of-pocket, work-related expenses from your earnings, thereby increasing your SSI benefit. You can deduct the cost of medical items, including medicines, supplies, devices, service animals, bandages, syringes and other disposables. You can also deduct certain costs you incur while preparing for or performing work, including doctors’ visits, attendant care and transportation to and from work. You can only deduct unreimbursed work expenses. You can include the full cost of an item, even if you use it both on and off the job. For example, a wheelchair is fully deductible.

Spousal Benefits

If you are disabled and happen to be a widow or divorced, you might be settling for SSI benefits even though you might qualify for SSDI. This can come about because you don’t have the necessary work credits -- you might have been a non-working or housebound spouse. As a widow, you can claim benefits based upon a deceased spouse’s earnings record. To qualify, you must at least 50 years old and your disability must have begun within seven years of your spouse’s death. As a divorcee, you can use your ex-spouse’s work credits if you are currently unmarried, age 62 or older, and were married at least 10 years.