SSI Disability Benefits
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) & Help for the Disabled
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits provide financial assistance to low-income adults and children who are disabled. In order for disabled individuals to qualify for this federal and state aid, however, their disabilities must meet a number of requirements. While this benefit is designed to help those who are in true need, there are many individuals who denied SSI payments even when they have disabilities and financial circumstances that legitimately qualify. Such denials can place individuals and families at major risk of not being able to pay for their basic living expenses.
We at Frank Walker Law know that all the rules and regulations related to SSI can become very confusing. For this reason, we have broken down the basics behind how the U.S. Social Security Administration defines an eligible disability under SSI. Our Pittsburgh SSI attorney is available to answer any further questions you might have on this topic and can help you find the best solution for preventing or challenging a denial of benefits.
What qualifies as a disability?
A "disability" is defined by the federal government as a physical or mental impairment (including an emotional and learning problem) that is medically determinable and that meets a number of requirements. For an adult, that impairment must result in the person's inability to perform any "substantial gainful activity," or to earn a substantial income. The impairment must also be long-term (lasting or expected to continuously last for a year or more) or must be something that can be expected to result in death.
If you are an adult who is seeking SSI benefits for yourself, you might be wondering how exactly the government defines "substantial gainful activity," or SGA. This is work that is performed, intended for or of a nature generally performed for pay or profit. Both part-time and full-time work can be considered substantial and gainful. According to the 2013 threshold, earnings that average more than $1,040 a month will usually qualify as SGA (for impairments other than blindness).
For a child (age 17 and younger), a disability eligible for SSI benefits must—just like for adults—be long-term or a disability that can be expected to result in death. The difference is that instead of affecting income-earning ability, the impairment is required to have led to led to severe functional limitations. Children's disabilities will usually be measured under these criteria until they turn 18. At that point, their disabilities are then re-evaluated under the criteria for adults to see if they still qualify for SSI benefits. There are some situations in which the U.S. Social Security Administration will allow an adult under the age of 22 to be considered a child under SSI, such as when the individual is a student and is also not married and not the head of his or her household.
In addition to proving the presence of qualified disabilities, those applying for SSI benefits must also prove that fall within the appropriate income brackets. The person applying for benefits must have little to no income or resources. Income is counted as earned income (such as wages), unearned income (such as government aid and interest income), in-kind income (such as food or shelter that is provided for free or at lower costs) and deemed income (such as income by a spouse or someone else the person lives with). Resources are things the individual owns, such as personal property, vehicles and other things that can exchanged for cash.
Working with a Qualified Pittsburgh SSI Disability Attorney
In some cases, individuals have disabilities that truly keep them from working, but they are denied because the Social Security Administration believes that the disability is not as severe as it really is. When this is the case, we help you take steps to prove the true extent of your impairment, such as by helping you gather and submit the appropriate medical records. Another obstacle you might face is showing proof that you have actual financial need, which we can also help with. Call our office to receive help from a knowledgeable lawyer!