SSI Lawyers in Richmond, VA


Helping Disabled Adults and Children Quality for Supplemental Security Income Benefits throughout Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina


Are you considering filing for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? Was your SSI claim denied recently and you want to know how to appeal it and win your case? Then you’re in the right place. Our SSI lawyers can help you get the cash benefits you need to survive financially.


This article provides an overview of the Supplemental Security Income program and gives tips on how to qualify for SSI benefits in Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland. Keep reading to learn more, then contact Richmond, VA SSI lawyer Corey Pollard for a free consultation regarding your legal rights.


What is the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program?


SSI is a cash assistance program that provides monthly benefits to adults who are disabled and who have limited income, assets, and resources. The federal government administers the SSI program. And local Social Security offices handle applications for SSI.


SSI claims are also called Title 16 claims because payment is authorized under that section of the Social Security Act. Under SSI there is no minimum age limit for establishing disability. Children, therefore, may qualify for SSI benefits if they are disabled and their parents meet the income requirements.


What is the Purpose of SSI?


The SSI program’s purpose is to provide a minimum level of income to people who are disabled or blind, and who have limited income and resources. SSI benefits are paid to protect your dignity and quality of life as much as possible.


If your family has too much income or resources, your SSI claim will be denied no matter how severe your medical impairments are. To receive SSI benefits you must prove not only that you are disabled, but also that you meet the “means” test discussed below. This is a key difference between SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.


Who is Eligible for SSI?


Understanding the SSI limits on income and assets is complicated. Though we discuss the SSI requirements below, make sure that you consult with a disability attorney when filing your SSI claim. Your lawyer can help you calculate income and assets for the purpose of qualifying for SSI.


You may qualify for SSI benefits if you fit into one of the following categories:


  • Aged: An aged person is someone who is age 65 or older.


  • Blind: The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers you blind if your vision, with use of a correcting lens, is 20/200 or less in your strongest eye or if you have tunnel vision of 20 degrees or less.


  • Disabled Adult: A disabled adult is someone who meets Social Security’s definition of disability. You must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SSA) because of your medically determinable physical or mental impairment which is expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for at least 12 months straight.


  • Disabled Child: A disabled child is someone under the age of 18 who meets the definition of disability for children under the Social Security Act. The child must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that results in marked and severe functional limitations, and which can be expected to result in death, or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least one year.


If you fall within one of the categories above, the SSA will also evaluate your income, resources, and assets to determine whether you qualify for SSI benefits.


SSI Income Limits – How Much Can You Earn?


The amount of your monthly income determines your eligibility for SSI and how much you will receive in SSI payments each month if you qualify. The more income you earn, the lower your SSI benefit. And if you earn too much income, you are not eligible for SSI benefits.


How much income is too much income for SSI?


Your monthly income, as calculated by the SSA, must fall below the federal benefit rate (FBR) to qualify for SSI. The federal benefit rate increases annually. In 2018 the maximum federal amount is $750 per month for individuals and $1,125 per month for couples.


Even if you are the only person in your household applying for disability benefits under the SSI program, the SSA will still consider your spouse’s income in determining your eligibility. If your spouse works full-time, there is a good chance you will not qualify. We see this happen time and time again. Even though it may not be fair, there is nothing that can be done unless the law governing SSI is changed.


How does the SSA define income for SSI purposes? 


The SSA defines income as “anything you receive during a calendar month that is used or could be used to meet your needs for food or shelter. It may be in cash or in-kind.” In-kind income is food, shelter, or something else you can use to get food or shelter.


Some income is excluded from the SSA’s calculation when determining your eligibility for SSI benefits. For example the SSA will not consider the following as income:


  • Food stamps


  • TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) Benefits


  • Subsidized housing


  • Medical care and services, including room and board, provided by the health care facility or paid directly to the facility on your behalf


  • Any social service or benefit that you receive from a government social service program


  • Income tax refunds


  • Proceeds of a loan


  • $65 per month of wages and half of your wages over $65


So what is the take-away: You can still receive SSI benefits if you’re receiving TANF, social services, or live in subsidized housing. Also you may be able to receive SSI benefits even if you’re working.


SSI Asset and Resource Limits – How Much Can You Own?


So you and your spouse are not working. Shouldn’t you qualify for SSI benefits automatically? Unfortunately the answer is no.


The SSA will also examine your assets and resources when determining your eligibility. This includes any cash you have in savings and checking accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, monetary investments, promissory notes, and some life insurance policies. It also includes any real property and personal property you own that can be sold for cash.


There are some exceptions. That is, there are some assets that the SSA will exclude from its calculation. These are:


  • Your house, including the land on which it sits. You must use this property as your principal residence to get the exemption.


  • Personal property up to $2,000 in value.


  • Your wedding ring and engagement ring.


  • Assistive devices such as wheelchairs, prosthetics, and canes.


  • One automobile.


  • Life insurance with a face value under $1,500.


  • Housing assistance


So how much can you have in resources to qualify for SSI, after the exemptions? The numbers are as follows:


  • $2,000.00 for a single person; or


  • $3,000 for a married couple.


This limitation on assets and resources is what causes many of our clients to be ineligible for SSI. If you worked for a number of years and put money in a retirement account, you may have to deplete your savings to qualify. The same goes for those of you who have obtained workers compensation settlements – having money in the bank may exclude you from receiving SSI benefits, though you may be able to work around this with a Special Needs Trust.


Do I Need to Have Worked to Receive SSI Benefits?


Unlike SSDI benefits, SSI is funded by general tax revenues and not Social Security taxes. This means you can still qualify for SSI benefits even though you’ve never had a job or have insufficient work credits to qualify for SSDI. Applying for SSI benefits is a good option for disabled adults who have no or low-income and have been able to hold a job because of their health or for other reasons.


We serve as Richmond SSI lawyers for many disabled adults who do not have a solid employment history. Do not let this your lack of an earnings history keep you from filing for Supplemental Security Income.


How Much Does SSI Pay?


The federal benefit rate discussed above also establishes the maximum federal SSI payment.


All individuals who qualify for SSI will receive the same benefit amount, unless they live in a state that supplements the payment with extra funds. Unfortunately Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland do not supplement monthly SSI payments. The state supplement can range from $10 to a few hundred dollars.


SSI will pay you $750 per month in Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland, unless you are working. In that case, your monthly SSI payment will be reduced depending on how much you are earning.


When are SSI Benefits Paid if I’m Approved?


The date your SSI benefits begin depends on the date the SSA finds you disabled.


If the SSA finds you disabled as of the date you filed your application for SSI, then you will receive SSI payments in the first month after the month you filed your application.


If the SSA finds you disabled as of a date after the date you filed your application for SSI, then you will receive SSI payments beginning in the first full month after the date you’re found disabled.


For example, you may have applied for SSI on January 1, 2016 and turned 55 on January 10, 2017. The administrative law judge presiding over your disability hearing may find you disabled as of your 55th birthday, based on the SSA Grid Rules. If so, your SSI benefits would begin in February of 2017.


Will I Receive Medical Coverage if I’m Approved for SSI Benefits?


Yes. You will become eligible for Medicaid if your claim for SSI benefits is approved. Your SSI attorney can explain the date you’ll become eligible so that you can seek the medical treatment you need to try to recover or live a better quality of life.


How Our Richmond SSI Lawyers Can Help with Your Claim for Supplemental Security Income


Most initial applications for SSI disability benefits are denied. And the appeals process is complex and difficult. Hiring a Richmond SSI attorney to guide you through the process for receiving Supplemental Security Income will help increase your chances of getting the money and benefits you need.


If you have a physical disability or mental disorder that impacts your ability to work, call us today to discuss your legal rights: 804-251-1620. We help disabled adults and children in Richmond and across Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland get the SSI benefits they deserve.