Answers to Common
Questions About SSI 2
Page 4 of 5
CAN I WORK AND STILL COLLECT
Yes, depending on how much money you earn. The amount of your SSI check is
determined by how much other income you receive. When your other income
increases, your SSI benefit will decrease. Social Security does not count the
first $20 that a person receives from other sources each month, whether
unearned income or earned income such as wages. The first $65.00 of earned
income is also not counted by Social Security. Therefore, the first $85.00 of
your wages will not be counted each month. One half of the money you earn over
$85.00 will be counted and deducted from your SSI check each month.
Social Security has many incentives that allow individuals to work without
losing SSI eligibility. These incentives include:
- Impairment related work expenses - Social Security
allows SSI recipients and applicants who work to deduct certain work
related expenses that are necessary because of the recipients disability.
These expenses may be deducted from countable income when determining SSI
eligibility and payment amounts. For persons who are blind, the work
expenses do not have to be related to the blindness. Examples of
impairment related work incentives include, but are not limited to:
personal care attendants; transportation; wheelchairs; computers; other
assistive technology devices and services. Note: There are special
work rules that apply to individuals who are blind. Contact your local
Social Security office or the national Social Security information line at
1-800-772-1213 for more details.
- Recovery During Vocational Rehabilitation
- If an
individual with a disability is participating in a vocational
rehabilitation program that is likely to lead to self supporting
employment, SSI benefits may continue until the end of the program.
- Sheltered Workshop Payments
- All payments that an
individual receives at a sheltered workshop are considered earned income.
This allows Social Security to exclude more of the income when computing
the amount of the SSI benefit.
- PASS - Plan for Achieving Self Support - A PASS is a
work incentive plan that allows individuals with disabilities to exclude
some or all of their earned income as countable income for the purposes of
SSI eligibility and payment determination. More information about PASS is
contained in the next section.
- Section 1619a - Social Security allows individuals to
earn up to $500 per month before they consider the person to be performing
"Substantial Gainful Activity" (SGA). Earning more than $500
does not does not stop SSI payments but triggers Social Security to
examine whether or not you have medically improved and no longer need the
program. Under a special program, Section 1619a, Social Security allows
individuals to earn more than $500 each month without triggering the SGA
examinations. In order to take advantage of 1619a work incentives,
the SSI recipient must:
- still be disabled;
- be eligible for an SSI payment for at least one month before working
at an SGA level;
- meet all other eligibility rules, including the SSI income and
WHAT IS PASS?
PASS, or Plan for Achieving Self Support, is a special work incentive program
for individuals with disabilities who receive or would like to receive SSI but
would also like to work. A PASS allows an individual to set aside or save
income and assets to pay for items related to a work goal. The income and
assets that are set aside are not counted by Social Security when determining
eligibility. Therefore, on a PASS program the individual can become eligible
for SSI, increase the monthly SSI check, or retain SSI eligibility when income
or resources have increased. Any kind of income can go into a PASS including
wages, disability payments, or income of parents or spouse that is considered
available to the individual with a disability.
A PASS can fund any item that is directly or indirectly connected to
achieving a work goal. The following is a very short list of examples that can
be funded with a PASS:
- College or trade school tuition.
- Tools and equipment including specially adapted items for a job or home
- Computer and related equipment.
- A vehicle and/or any special modifications to it.
- Assistive listening, hearing and speaking devices.
A PASS proposal can be written by anyone, including the individual with the
disability. Social Security can assist in writing the PASS and is required to
help if requested. The PASS should be written on Social Security's form
developed specifically for PASS proposals. The PASS written document must
contain several items including:
- A specific occupational objective;
- A list of items to be funded and their cost;
- The income/resources that go into the PASS;
- Specific savings and disbursement goals;
- A timetable to achieve the goal.
Social Security must review and approve each PASS before it may be
implemented. The individual with a disability must comply with the terms of
the approved PASS or must amend the PASS to reflect changes in the employment
For more information about PASS or to obtain a copy of the PASS form,
contact your local Social Security office or the national information line at
CAN I COLLECT SSI AND TANF (Temporary
Aid to Needy Families)?
No. Because SSI and AFDC are assistance programs that help families with
limited incomes, the income you receive from one program would make you
ineligible to receive benefits from the other. You should evaluate each
program and decide which will be best for your family.
CAN I COLLECT SSI AND
SSDI, or Social Security Disability Insurance, is a program that provides
monthly payments to individuals who have disabilities and who have worked and
paid into the Social Security system long enough to receive benefits. If you
receive SSDI payments, you can supplement them with SSI payments up to $20.00
above the SSI level. Remember, you are only eligible for SSI if you meet the
income and assets limitations for the program.
WHAT IF SOCIAL SECURITY CLAIMS THAT THEY
If you agree with Social Security's letter of overpayment, you need to contact
your local Social Security office to make arrangements to pay back the money.
Repayment arrangements usually involve a reduction in the monthly SSI check
for a specific period of time. You may also request a waiver of overpayment,
if you are unable to return the money to Social Security.
If you do not agree with the overpayment determination or if your waiver of
overpayment request is denied, you may appeal the decision to Social Security.
HOW DO I APPEAL A DECISION MADE BY
If Social Security decides that you are not eligible or no longer eligible for
benefits, or that the amount of your payments should be changed, they will
send you a letter explaining their decision. The letter will also contain
information on how to appeal the decision if you do not agree with Social
Security's determination. The appeal request must be submitted in writing
within 60 days from the date you receive the letter. Social Security assumes
that you receive the letter five days after it is dated.
There are four levels of appeal:
Reconsideration, Hearing, Review by the Appeals Council and Federal Court
Action. You have the right to be represented at each level of the process.
- Level 1: Reconsideration - A reconsideration is a
review of your file by someone who did not take part in the initial
determination. Most reconsiderations are a only a review of the file and
you will not need to be present. If Social Security has determined that
you are no longer eligible for benefits because your condition has
improved, you may request either a review of your file or you may choose
to meet with a Social Security representative to discuss the reasons for
the decision and then review the case file.
- Level 2: Hearing - If you disagree with the
reconsideration decision, you can ask for a hearing. The hearing will be
conducted by an Administrative Law Judge who did not take part in the
initial determination or the reconsideration decision. You and/or your
representative may come to the hearing to explain your side of the case,
present and question witnesses, and to submit any new evidence. If it is possible, you and your representative
should attend the hearing and present any new evidence. If you do not
attend, the Judge will base the decision only on the information in the
file and any new evidence that you have submitted.
- Level 3: Review by the Appeals Council - If you
disagree with the decision of the Administrative Law Judge, you may ask
for a review by the Social Security Appeals Council. Although the Council
looks at all review requests, it may decide not to review your case if it
believes the hearing decision was correct. If the Appeals
Council decides to review your case, it will either decide the case itself
or it will return the case to an Administrative Law Judge for further
review. Social Security will send you a letter with a copy of the
Council's decision to review or to send it to an Administrative Law Judge.
- Level 4: Federal Court Action
- This is the last stage
of the appeals process. You may file a lawsuit against Social Security in
federal court if you disagree with the Appeals Council's decision or if
the Appeals Council decides not to review your case.
CAN I STILL RECEIVE BENEFITS FROM SOCIAL
SECURITY WHILE MY CASE IS BEING APPEALED?
In certain cases, you may request a continuation of benefits while waiting for
a decision on your appeal. If you are appealing Social Security's decision
that you are no longer eligible for benefits because your condition has
improved, or that your SSI payments will be reduced or eliminated, you can
request that the benefits be continued until the appeal is settled. If you
want your benefits to continue, you must tell Social Security within 10 days
of the date that you receive the decision letter from Social Security.
NOTE: If you lose the appeal, you may be required to pay
back any money that you were not eligible to receive.
DO I HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE REPRESENTED
WHEN I AM DEALING WITH SOCIAL SECURITY?
Yes. You have the right to represent yourself or you may choose a
"representative" to help you with Social Security matters. Your
representative can be a lawyer, friend, relative or anybody that you choose to
help you. Your representative can act for you and will receive copies of
decisions made by Social Security.
For more information contact your local Social Security office or the
national Social Security information line at 1-800-772-1213.
CAN I CONTACT SOCIAL SECURITY VIA THE
Yes, Social Security has a website that contains a variety of information
including application forms, program information and the answers to frequently
asked questions. Social Security's web address is http://www.ssa.gov.
RETURN TO: Common
Questions About SSI (2)