Who Determines Benefit Levels for the Supplemental Security Income?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates the amount of a recipient’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit payment by applying an equation that bases the benefit on the amount of a person’s countable unearned income and their countable earned income. The Supplemental Security Income program is a needs-based plan that’s intended to provide some financial support to low-income individuals and families.
The London Disability specializes in getting everyone SSI and SSDI law and has been representing deserving clients and their families for over 20 years.
One of the questions new clients often ask us is how the Social Security Administration decides the amount of their SSI benefit payment. Let’s go over it together.
What Equation Is Used to Determine the Amount of Your SSI Benefit Payment?
Because the SSI program is needs-based, your financial circumstances and that of your family weigh heavily in figuring the amount of your SSI benefit payment. Applications for SSI benefits are judged by looking at the income and financial resources available to the applicant. There are two categories of income considered, unearned income and earned income.
Maximum SSI Benefit Payment Amount
The highest amount a recipient can receive as an SSI benefit payment in 2021 is $783. The Social Security Administration uses that figure as its starting point in determining the size of your benefit payment.
From that $783 starting point, the SSA counts your monthly income, both earned and unearned. As explained below, not all your income will count for purposes of the SSA calculation. Whatever income you receive that’s not excluded by law is added together. The total sum of your countable income is then subtracted from the $783 maximum payment amount and the remaining amount is the benefit payment you receive.
It is important to remember that many states provide supplements to the federal SSI benefits, both in funds and in services made available at little or no cost. These state-funded resources are different in different states, so they can’t be detailed here. Your SSI attorney has the experience and thorough knowledge of every available program and resource. That’s why the SSI law team at the london disability, who need and deserve every benefit available.
Unearned Income: Unearned income includes any funds or financial support you receive from other public or government sources, like SSDI, HUD rent subsidies, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), state-financed support payments, alimony or spousal support, child support, unemployment benefits, pensions, income from dividends and interest, prizes, gifts, and inheritances.
However, the Social Security Administration counts only some of those funds to determine the amount of your SSI benefit payment. The unearned income excluded from counting are these:
- any public tax refunds on real estate or food.
- all assistance payments funded entirely by a state or a political subdivision.
- any grants, fellowships, or scholarships used for tuition or education-related expenses.
- food grown by an individual or their family member consumed in the household.
- all disaster and emergency relief paid from funds authorized by presidential declaration.
- the assistance you or your family received that was funded entirely by the state or governmental subdivision of the state.
- HUD-funded rent subsidies and payments through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
- payments received for providing foster care to a child in the home for a qualified agency,
- One-third of child support received from an absent parent.
- payments received for needs-based energy or heat assistance.
- The interest of growth in value earned on funds dedicated for burial or the burial plot.
- the first $20 per month of unearned income not provided by a needs-based program and the first $60 of income received each quarter if irregular and not in successive months.
- other less common sources of unearned income your SSI lawyer will guide you through.
Earned Income: Earned Income is defined by the SSA as money or things of value you receive in return for work you performed. This is a simple general description, but like the unearned income category, the SSA does not count some kinds of earned income when it calculates the size of your SSI benefit payment.
- any Earned Income Tax Credit received from the IRS based on your income tax filing,
- the first $65 of any unused portion of the first $20 per month income exclusion, and one-half of its remaining amount,
- any impairment-related costs and expenses incurred by disabled workers or a blind recipient,
- any income you set aside to establish a fund to achieve independence if you are disabled or blind,
- the first $30 received in a quarter, if irregular and not received in successive months.
Deemed Income: Deemed income is income that your spouse or other household member earns or receives that can be “deemed” to benefit the SSI recipient. Kathleen Day and her expert SSI lawyers will analyze the details of your household and ensure that no income is unfairly deemed to benefit you and reduce your SSI benefit payment.
Month-to-Month Eligibility for SSI
The financial situation in any home with a limited income can change from month to month. As a result, it is common for an applicant to be eligible for SSI benefits for several months, and then become ineligible due to some temporary fluctuation in income. When the level of countable income returns to a qualifying level, the SSI benefit will resume.