How to Apply for SSI Without Falling into Quicksand

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Robin Mead

If you are applying for SSI there are a few policies they won’t tell you, even though you really need to know them:

🐳 These policies are for SSI only. They will not matter for SSDI. What’s the Difference Between SSI and SSDI?

🐳 If you are not applying for SSI, obviously, you do not need to read this page.

🐳 It is helpful to keep in mind that while you are applying for SSI, the way you are living right now will affect your back pay check in the future.

🐳 If you are receiving a free or discounted place to live or if someone is giving you money for rent or mortgage or food, please read this very important article and this very helpful sample agreement and also this page about rent.

🐳 If you are homeless, this may or may not lower your SSI. It depends how long you are homeless and how transient you are and where you are staying. More details are included under the “exceptions” section on this page about rent

🐳 If someone is giving you money, it is important to document if this is a gift or a loan. Social Security will lower your SSI for gifts, but not for loans. Whatever your arrangement is, put it in writing and sign it and date it as soon as possible. The date on the agreement is important.

🐳 If someone is paying your bills or giving you gifts, this is no problem and will not affect your SSI. The only things that matter are: rent/mortgage, food, utilities, and cash. It does not matter if someone else pays your phone bills, medical bills, etc.

🐳 If you are in school, student loans will have no effect on your SSI, no matter how you spend them. Some people survive off of student loans while applying.

🐳 Student grants may or may not have an effect. If they are spent only on “educational expenses” there is no effect.

🐳 This page has a more complete list of what kinds of income affects SSI and what does not: How You Can (and can’t) Make Money While on SSI

🐳 If you are married. When deciding if you are eligible, they will count the income and assets for your spouse. For some people, this means their check will be very low or they will not qualify at all. This is done by a complicated formula depending on how many kids you have and what types of income you have.

🐳 If you are living with someone. They will not count the income from your boyfriend or girlfriend, unless….  you are living together and Social Security decides your arrangement is more like a marriage. This does not happen often, but does come up for some people. For some people, this means their disability check will be very low or they will not qualify at all. These rules are called holding out as married.

🐳 If your name appears anywhere on a bank account (even your children’s bank accounts) they may consider it your money. Be careful about anyone adding your name to a bank account, business ownership documents, car loans, or anything else that makes you suddenly own something

🐳 There is an asset limit of $2,000 ($3,000 for married couples). If you have more than this, you are allowed to spend your money, but you are not allowed to give your money away. One car and one house do not count, as long as you live there. (If you are married, still just one car total!). Learn more about How Assets Affect SSI Checks

🐳 Your assets need to be down below the limit by the last day of each month. If they are over by even $1, you lose one month’s worth of backpay for each time it happens.

🐳 At some point you will be contacted for an SSI financial interview. This may also be called PERC. Here’s How to Handle an SSI Interview

🐳 Some people wind up losing their SSI checks, or getting a very low check, or owing money back, or not getting any backpay, because they don’t know the rules. Sometime when you have a chance, you may wish to read the rules so you don’t have this problem: How to Stay Out of Hot Water with SSI

🐳 Also (hopefully) helpful: How to Survive Financially While Applying

Updated Oct 2017. Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working.

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