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  • Stephanie O. Joy, Esq. /

Disabled claimants should not forget about SSI

Many Pennsylvania and New Jersey individuals interchange the terms “SSI” (Supplemental Security Income) and “SSD” (Social Security Disability). However, those two programs are distinctly different from one another. Many claimants, and even many lawyers who don’t practice enough Social Security law to realize, will file for SSD and not SSI, leaving a few thousand dollars of potential cash benefits on the table. The fact that an online application for SSD does not include a claim for SSI, makes missing this important consideration very easy.

When a person becomes very medically impaired and knows that he or she cannot work a full- time job of any kind anymore, and has stopped working substantially, he or she may decide to file for his or her social security disability insurance benefits (SSDIB or SSD). These are the benefits that the person worked for and paid premiums for, through his tax payments. Those tax payments also made him insured for Social Security Retirement Insurance Benefits (“SSRIB”) once he hits 62 years of age. But what about SSI?

SSI is not Social Security. It is a program administered by the SSA, but does not require that one worked or paid taxes. It only requires that one be disabled (as defined by SSA law) and poor enough to need it (as defined by SSA law). If a person has no or extremely little income, while he is still fighting for his SSD, if he has a filed SSI application at that time, he may in hindsight, have been poor enough for those months, to get SSI. This is because some of those months may be ineligible for SSD payments later on, due to the five-month waiting period for SSD. After prevailing on his claim, if those back months where no SSD payments are due have other financial criteria are met, including a filed pending SSI application, the claimant may receive SSI payments of up to about $735.00 per month for those non-SSD months. Additionally, if the person’s earned SSD benefit amount is less than about $755.00, he can continue to get SSI ongoing in the amount of the balance needed to get his total income up to $755.00.

The bottom line is that a claimant should not forget to analyze his situation to determine if an SSI application would be appropriate and, perhaps, when in doubt, file it.

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