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What makes you not eligible for SSI?

Regular Lives for Families with Children with Disabilities: Interview with Kathie Snow

Kathie Snow: One of the things that frightens me is and some parents are aware of this… When your child is young and a minor and living at home, the child might qualify for SSI, Supplemental Security Income because of the parents’ income. And then whenever the person turns 18, they’re considered a legal adult. And then they no longer apply based on their parents’ income, it’s based on their income. And what a lot of families don’t realize is… I mean a lot of parents just wait. «Oh, I can’t wait for my kid to turn 18. He’s going to get SSI on his own.» That is frightening to me. Statistically, once a person goes on SSI, when they turn 18 and they’re eligible, okay? Statistically only 1% of people ever get off in their lifetimes. So there’s all kind of disincentives to work. I mean, a lot of people that are watching are aware of that.

So, we’re talking about people that are going to be living below the poverty line all of their lives on what I’m going to call disability welfare. And that’s not a criticism of people who get that. It’s a criticism of our system that we have said it is okay if you have a disability to live below the poverty line starting age 18 and never have to work, never have to do anything. I mean you have a terrible life, you’re living in poverty and you can never have more than $2000 in assets if you’re single. We impoverish people. And we say that’s okay for you to, at age 18 until you’re dead, to live below the poverty line. It’s like that is not okay. And so I think that parents have to investigate all that.

When our son turned 18, we told him the pros and the cons. And we said what parents need to realize is that ultimately the eligibility for SSI when you turn 18 is that you are considered to be unemployable. I mean they’re not going to give you government taxpayer funding if you can go out and support yourself. I mean the expectation is when you’re 18, when you’re 18, when I’m 18, you go out and get a job and support yourself. So they’re not going to give you money if you can go out and support yourself. So you basically have to go to SSI and say, I am unemployable. And that’s how you qualify.

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Well, but I only learned this from learning from people with disabilities themselves. And so when Ben…my son turned 18, we talked to him about it, and we said here’s the pros, here’s the cons. The pros are you get, at the time, $675 a month basically for doing nothing and you’ll automatically get Medicaid so Daddy and I won’t have to pay for this… I mean my son is uninsurable and like everybody else that has disability. And we won’t have to pay this $300 a month for this high-risk pool that you’re in. And we said those are the pros. I said the cons are you are going to be treated differently. You’re going to get dependent on it, and you’re going to have to go and prove yourself at some point that you can get off of it by getting a job as opposed to, you know, that you can just go get a job. And so our son said, no, he says I don’t want it.

And, again, the system, including SSI and Medicaid, ought to be the last resort and not the first choice. And so we need to make sure that our children know, that we have to know this stuff and we have to help our children know it and listen to our children.

I’ve met so many families, unfortunately that, when the child turns 18 and is eligible for SSI on his own, the child is then seen as a breadwinner and the parents do not ever want the child to work because then they, the family, will lose this young person’s SSI income. So this young person is now held hostage to what his family wants. And I think that is just so unfair that we have put this burden on them that… And a lot of young people don’t want to be on SSI. They know that it limits their opportunities. It limits how much money they can put in their savings account or, you know, have. And… But they’re being held hostage because of their families. And so it’s not about us. It’s about our children, and we have to make sure that they have those opportunities.

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The GCDD is funded under the provisions of P.L. 106-402. The federal law also provides funding to the Minnesota Disability Law Center, the state Protection and Advocacy System, and to the Institute on Community Integration, the state University Center for Excellence. The Minnesota network of programs works to increase the IPSII of people with developmental disabilities and families into community life.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 2001MNSCDD-03, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.

This website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $1,120,136.00 with 83 percent funded by ACL/HHS and $222,000.00 and 17 percent funded by non-federal-government source(s). The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

What makes you not eligible for SSI?

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides monthly payments to adults and children with a disability or blindness who have income and resources below specific financial limits. SSI payments are also made to people age 65 and older without disabilities who meet the financial qualifications.

Who is Eligible for SSI?

Adults Who:

  • Are age 65 and older, or blind, or have a disability.
  • Have limited income (wages, pensions, etc.).
  • Have limited resources (the things you own).
  • Are U.S. citizens, nationals of the U.S., and some noncitizens.
  • Reside in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands. It does not include Puerto Rico, Guam, or the United States Virgin Islands. Exception: The children of military parent(s) assigned to permanent duty outside the U.S. and certain students temporarily abroad may receive SSI payments outside the U.S.

Children Who:

  • Are under age 18 and have physical or mental condition(s) that very seriously limits their daily activities for a period of 12 months or more or may be expected to result in death, and
  • Live in a household with limited income (benefits based on need) or resources.
  • For more details, visit our webpage about SSI for children.
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How SSI Works

To get SSI you must have limited income and resources. The table below shows the maximum income and resources you can have to qualify for SSI. Note: Exclusions may apply to the income and resource limits in each of the columns below.

2023 SSI Income and Resource Eligibility Table

Gross wages or net self-employment incomeIncome from pensions or gifts, etc.Resources (things you own)
Less than $1,913 per month in wages (before taxes and other deductions) or self-employment (after deduction of allowable business expenses) if you are an individual.Less than $934 per month if you are an individual.Less than $2,000 total if you are an individual.
Less than $2,827 per month in wages (before taxes and other deductions) or self-employment (after deduction of allowable business expenses) if you are a couple.Less than $1,391 per month if you are a couple.Less than $3,000 total if you are a couple.
Note: If you have a disability and have other expenses related to work you may still be eligible for SSI.Note: We automatically exclude some things like ABLE accounts, some trusts, and some burial funds. You may be eligible even if you think you have resources over these limits.

SSI is different from our Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. However, the medical requirements are the same for both programs. To get disability payments, you must have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Also, under both programs, we consider a person “blind” if they have vision no better than 20/200 or a limited visual field of 20 degrees or less in the better eye with the use of eyeglasses. A person whose sight isn’t poor enough to be “blind” may still be considered to have a qualifying disability.

Your income and resources

Whether you can get SSI depends on your income and resources (the things you own).

Income is money you receive such as wages, Social Security benefits, pensions, workers compensation, unemployment benefits, and money from friends or relatives. Income also includes such things as food and shelter you get free or for less than its fair market value.

You may be able to get SSI if your resources (the things you own) are worth $2,000 or less. A couple may be able to get SSI if they have resources worth $3,000 or less. We don’t count everything you own when we decide if you can get SSI. For example, we don’t count the house you own if you live in it, and we usually don’t count your vehicle. We do count cash, bank accounts, stocks, and bonds.

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How to Apply for SSI

OPTION 1: Let Us Help You Through the Application Process

The easiest way to begin is to request an appointment to file for benefits. You can request an appointment for yourself or someone you are helping. Our representatives can answer questions, explain needed documents, and guide you through the application process.

SSI: Requesting an Appointment Online

What You’ll Need to Make an Appointment

  • The name, date of birth, Social Security number, mailing address, phone number, and email address (optional) for the person who wants to apply for SSI.
  • Your name, phone number, and email address (optional) if you are helping someone else.

I prefer to request an appointment by phone.
Call us at 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment to file your application. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can call us at TTY 1-800-325-0778.

OPTION 2: Start an Application Online

You can start the application process online. Before you begin, please review the basics to make sure you understand what to expect and the information and documents you’ll need to complete the application.

Please pick the option that meets your needs below. Note: Once you submit your information, you may be contacted later by a representative.

Disability Determination Services

The Disability Determination Services makes medical eligibility determination on applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for the Social Security Administration (SSA).

These determinations are based on federal rules and regulations. All applications for benefits must be submitted through the SSA office.

SSDI pays disability benefits to individuals who are insured due to contributions to the Social Security trust fund through Social Security tax on their earnings. SSDI also makes payments to certain people with disabilities who are dependents of insured individuals.

SSI provides for payments to persons, including children under the age of 18, who have disabilities and limited income and resources.

The SSA, which makes decisions about eligibility for disability benefits, defines disability as the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity because of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months or is expected to result in death. Disability Determination Services operations are fully funded by the SSA.

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DRS and Disability Determination

Descriptive Transcript

Descriptive Transcript

Voice over (VO): The Social Security Administration pays disability benefits to Oklahomans who can’t work due to a medical condition expected to last at least one year or result in death.

Bruce Smith, Professional relations Office: We look at each case on an individual basis and make sure that we make the correct decision on it. Because we do know that people’s lives depend on it.

VO: Disability Determination is a division of the state Department of Rehabilitation Services. But the program is funded by the federal government to determine eligibility for Social Security disability benefits. Disability examiners and consulting physicians or psychologists work as a team on the medical review process. They decide whether or not applicants are disabled or blind based on medical evidence and federal rules and regulations.

Christy Washington, DD Specialist Level 4: In the event that the consumer’s medical records don’t have enough information or not the type of information we need, our agency will pay for a private exam in the community. So we can get the information we need to help the consumer.

VO: Children are evaluated based on their ability to perform age-appropriate activities. Cases are re-evaluated periodically to make sure that individuals receiving benefits are still disabled.

Washington: Here at DDD, the process of making all our medical records come in electronically has help to speed up the process and to be able to make decisions more quickly and efficiently.

Larry Jones, Social Security Administration Public Affairs Specialist: The thing I like about the Disability.

Determination Division is the fact that their employees are really well trained and understand exactly what they are doing. They’ve had a remarkable accuracy rate, in fact, it’s over 96% in the last year. They take over 50,000 cases a year from the offices around the state of Oklahoma.

VO: Disability Determination helps Oklahomans cope with loss of income due to disability. As a result, they gain more independence and make a better life for themselves and their families.

Smith: As a result of finding an allowance not only do the people receive benefits – the people that apply – sometimes their family members and it will raise the quality of life for the whole family not just the person who applies and is allowed.

Copyright 2008 Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.

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