Ten Common Reasons SSI Might Be Low

Art: Robin Mead

This article is about SSI. If you are on SSDI read this instead. If you don’t know what you are on read this instead.

One: You are Working

If you are working or getting money some other way, your check will be lower. The formula is complicated and there are special rules. As a general guideline: for every two dollars you earn, your check may be lowered by one dollar. There are some exceptions. Learn more: How to Work Without (Too Much) Trouble

Two: You are Not Paying Rent

If someone is paying your rent, paying your mortgage, paying your utilities, paying for your food, or giving you a free place to stay, this will make your SSI check lower. There are a few exceptions. Learn more.

Three: You are Paying Rent but You are Not Paying the Right Amount of Rent

If you are living with other people, then it is important to be covering your share of the rent or mortgage, utilities, and food. Paying the Right Amount of Rent or Mortgage can make a difference in your SSI check. Paying little or no rent is the number one reason why people get a low SSI check. Some people get a low check for many years this way.

Four: Someone is Trying to Help You But They Are Really Hurting You

There are many ways someone is allowed to support you, and many ways they are not. Learn the regs to avoid massive problems.

Five: Your Check is Not Really Low

If your check is already at Maximum SSI, this article probably won’t help you. Instead take a look here: How to Survive on SSI

Six: Your Spouse or Parents Have Income

Income to spouses or parents (if child is under 18) can can affect an SSI check. There are a few exceptions it may be helpful to know about: How to Avoid Deeming

Seven: You Gave Debt Collectors Permission to Take Money

If debt collectors are taking money directly from you bank account, this is because you have given them permission. You do not have to do this and in most cases you probably do not want to do this. Learn your options and rights for dealing with Credit Cards, Medical Bills, Student Loans & IRS

Eight: You Have an Overpayment

Sometimes Social Security gives you too much money and then later wants the extra money back. If you can’t pay it back, they may lower your future checks. If the overpayment was not your fault, you have the right to appeal the decision and/or request an overpayment waiver. Appeals and waivers are almost always denied at first. Be persistent and keep appealing, it may take three or four different appeals. You do not need a lawyer, you can fill out the forms yourself.

Nine: Your Life Has Changed but Your Check Has Not Changed

Changes to your check don’t happen by magic. Some people think Social Security will always send them the correct amount of money and if their life changes their check will just magically adjust to the correct amount. No, no, no. You must make the magic happen. SSI checks will often go up or down because of marriage, divorce, separation, starting working, stopping working, or change in household income.

Ten: Social Security Made a Mistake

If SSI ever lowers your check, and you don’t agree or don’t understand why, you have the right to appeal within 60 days. A regular disability lawyer will not help you with this situation. Your local nonprofit low-income legal aid center may help. However, you do not need a lawyer, you can just send in a request for reconsideration form. If that doesn’t work, don’t give up, you can appeal. If SSI is continuing to make a mistake with your check, contact your Congressperson. They may be able to help. All check out: How to Solve Your Social Security Problems

Learn the Regs

SSI Regulations can be confusing and difficult to find and understand! Many people break the regulations simply because they do not know what they are. I am gathering them together here: All the SSI Regs

Bonus Ideas

Social Security won’t always tell you that you can do these things, but you can! If it does not happen automatically, call and make an appointment and request them:

💛 If you first became disabled before the age of 22, when one of your parents dies, retires, or becomes disabled, you may be able to collect Social Security off your parent’s income record. In some cases, this will increase your SSI.

💛 If you are widowed, starting at age 50, you may be able to collect widow’s benefits. For people without disabilities it starts at age 60. In some cases, this will increase your SSI.

💛 If you are divorced from someone who died, starting at age 50, you may be able to collect widow’s benefits. In some cases, this will increase your SSI.

💛 If you are married or divorced, in some cases you may be able to collect spousal benefits instead of your own benefits, starting at age 62.

It’s a Mystery!

If you don’t know why your check was lowered, you can contact your caseworker at Social Security and ask if they can help you by explaining why your check is not currently at maximum SSI. Make sure to let them know you are not requesting a new SSI interview right now, you are just asking them to explain to you the last decision that was made. You want to figure out what the problem is before requesting a new interview.

It is best to talk directly to your caseworker. Ask to speak to the person who handles your case, or to speak with a Service Representative who specializes in SSI. Do not ask the random person who answers the phone or stands behind the ticket window or you may be told something weird. If you speak directly with your caseworker, there is a better chance you will get an accurate answer, but definitely not guaranteed.

If you spoke with your caseworker but you are still having trouble understanding what is going on with your SSI check, you can post below or check out this page on How to Escape the Information Black Hole

After you talk to your caseworker, you will know why your check is low, but you may not know if there is anything that will change your check. Unless you read this: Things that Can Make an SSI Check Go Up or Down

4 thoughts on “Ten Common Reasons SSI Might Be Low”

  1. I’m on SSI and receive $764 a month, I am also a felon and cannot find anyone who will rent to me because of one or both issues… The criteria to rent is very complex and I cannot afford application fees along with having $2000 in the bank, deposit, and first and last months rent… I’ve applied for section 8 in 4 states never hearing anything back.
    I feel hopeless and I’ve tried to overcome this problem for years, finding no solutions or answers
    Most places have raised the rent to also intentionally exclude people on disability, but it’s hard to prove.
    Do you have any solutions?


    1. I’m sorry you are in this situation… I know it can be a tough one.

      I would say keep applying for housing assistance programs… especially if you find any designed for people with a history of homelessness, as they are sometimes more lenient about fees and background checks. Info on where to find more places to apply is here:

      Some people have had success getting disability accommodations to have their background check overlooked, if they can show that the conviction was in any way related to their disability. howtogeton.wordpress.com/sample-disability-accommodation-letters-housing/

      Most housing programs will require some kind of deposit, but the first and last month’s rent may be flexible or minimal if you are on Section 8 or assistance. If you have a mental health diagnosis, see if you can contact your local public mental health system and ask how you can get a caseworker… they can be helpful with finding housing options… you can also google the name of your city or state and the words “supportive housing” or “supported housing”… these programs can be more flexible about admissions.

      Hope you can find something.

      Also: Most felonies do time out for most housing programs… after x number of years they will stop considering it. You can call and ask each programs policy and how many years.

      Also: You might avoid section 8 vouchers… look into section 8 and other assisted buildings. With a voucher, you still need to find a private landlord which can be a challenge.


  2. Hi,

    I have recently been approved for SSI. They reduced my check due to “ISMS”. I live with family and it was told to my case worker and judge I would be paying rent out of my check. I received my check and it was reduced because they said my share of rent is higher than the standard amount given. Therefore they reduced my benefit and said my family or someone in my household, I’m single, is helping cover the costs. I don’t know what to do and I am getting deeper in the whole. I can’t survive off this amount and I can’t seem
    To get any help.

    Plz help!


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