How to Survive on SSI

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Art: Robin Mead

Welcome. This page is about getting by on SSI. If you are on SSDI, do not read this page, or you will give yourself a million headaches for no reason. Instead, take a look at this page on How to Be Poor in America and this page on Everything No One Ever Tells You About Living on Disability

If you are on SSI, you can still read the pages above, but here’s a few extra special things you might also like to know:

Housing

💮 Many people find that the main key to being on SSI and staying (mostly) alive is to find subsidized housing.

💮 Here’s a good way to get started looking: How to Find Open Waiting Lists the Easy Way

💮 According to the SSI regulations, if your rent subsidized by a person this lower your disability check, but if your rent is subsidized by a government program (or some nonprofit programs) SSI will not be affected.

Section 8 Housing 

💮 Section 8 housing is a particularly good match for people on SSI because rent is income-based. Do not listen to anyone who tells you that Section 8 is impossible to get or that all Section 8 housing is crappy. Not true! And also, not true! Here’s what is true: Section 8 Guide for the Disabled and Plucky

💮 If you think that all Section 8 housing is terrible, don’t be so sure! Can Affordable Housing Be Nice? (See for yourself)

💮 If you are on SSI, rent in Section 8 housing will be approximately $210 per month. If utilities are not included in the rent, then rent will be approximately $100 per month.

Food

💮 It is difficult to afford to live on SSI. If your food stamps are low or you were turned down for food stamps, please try learning some of the food stamps regulations for people with disabilities.

💮 Food stamps and food banks and food through government programs do not affect your SSI check.

Food in California

💮 If you are in California, you cannot apply for food stamps while on SSI. (But your SSI check will be higher than for people in other states – see below).

💮 If you are on both SSI or SSDI, and your SSI is very low, you might wish to look into declining the SSI and applying for food stamps instead.

💮 Even if you cannot get food stamps for yourself, it’s possible your kids or other family members can still get them.

SSI Check

💮 Maximum SSI is between $750-$910 depending on your state.

💮 If you first became disabled before the age of 22 take a look here: How to Get Disabled Adult Child Benefits. Does not matter what age you are now.

💮 If your check is below maximum and you do not know why, it may help to take a look here: Ten Common Reasons an SSI Check May Be Low.

Life

💮 Here is a long list of ways to make life more affordable if you are low income and disabled.

💮 Here’s Everything No One Ever Tells You About Living on Social Security Disability

Interviews

💮 From time to time, you will be contacted for an SSI financial interview. This may also be called PERC. Here’s How to Handle an SSI Interview

Reporting

💮 Please report right away if any of these things happen. Report by certified mail or by going to the office and getting a stamped receipt. There is also an app you can use to report income from working.

  • If you receive any cash or money
  • If you have a change of income or assets
  • If you start or stop getting free rent
  • If someone else pays your food, rent or utilities
  • If you live with a spouse and have more children

💮 There are a few other things you want to report that may cause your check to go up or down: What Do I Need to Report to Social Security?

Troubleshooting

💮 Sometimes Social Security asks for some money back. This can be because of a mistake you made, or because of a mistake they made. If this happens, check out: How To Respond When Social Security Tells You That You Owe Money

💮 SSI will only allow you to have a certain amount of money or own a certain amount of stuff. If you go over the limit, problems can happen: How to Handle If You Are Over the SSI Resource Limit

💮 How much money and stuff are you allowed to have? Take a look here: SSI Resource Limit.

What To Do About Nice People Who Want to Give You Stuff

💮 I’m On SSI. Can Someone Else Pay My Bills?

💮 I’m on SSI. Can someone give me a gift?

💮 I’m on SSI. Can I Start an Online Fundraiser?

💮 If you plan to inherit money someday, please research Special Needs Trusts and ABLE accounts. These are legal trusts that are established to protect people on SSI and Medicaid.

Working

💮 If you are working or plan to start working, please check out: How Does Working Affect My Disability Check?

💮 Also take a look at: How to Work Without (Too Much) Trouble

Relationships & Family

💮 Your love life can have a big impact on your disability check! How Does My Love Life Affect My Disability Check?

Regulations

💮 Social Security does not tell you all the regulations. Then if you break a regulation without realizing it, you may owe money back. Please learn the regulations for yourself: How to Stay Out of Hot Water with SSI

💮 Unfortunately, many many people are told the wrong information about SSI when they call or visit Social Security. The best thing to do is only follow what you can see written on the Social Security website or written in the Social Security policy manual.

💮 You can also call and ask for the name and contact information for your SSI worker. Talk directly to that person only. If you have a question about SSI financial policies, whatever you do never ask questions to the person who answers the phone.

Child Support

💮 Child support can have a big effect on SSI. But there is a loophole. See Debbie’s story at the bottom of this page.

Financial Survival

💮 More things that can help: How to Be Poor in America

Paying Your Share

💮 If you do not pay the correct amount of rent or mortgage, food and utilities your check will be lowered. don’t understand why your check is being lowered. Learn more about the rules for: Rules for rent, food, mortgage and utilities.

💮 Many people on SSI rent a room in a house belonging to a family member or friend. If you do this, please learn the regulations to make sure you are paying the right amount of rent.

Money

💮 How Can I Save Money Without Losing SSI?

💮 How Does Income Affect SSI?

💮 How You Can (and can’t) Receive Money While on SSI

Troubleshooting

💮  If you are feeling confused or you are being told conflicting information, there’s a very good chance this is happening because someone is mixing up the resource room with the income rules. Totally different rules! How to Tell the Difference Between the Income and Resource Rules

💮 It’s also possible someone is mixing up the SSI rules with the SSDI rules. Also totally different rules! How to Tell Understand the Difference Between SSI and SSDI

💮 If you have more questions, or run into a problem, check out: How to Solve Your Social Security Problems

💮 The cardinal rule for all programs you will ever apply for: Never take no for an answer over the phone. Never take no for an answer in a meeting. Always apply on paper. Always get an answer in writing. If someone tells you “no” or “you are not eligible” or “that is not possible” and you think they may be wrong…. here are a few sentences you can say that can magically turn a “no” into a “yes.”

Success!

💮 Plenty of people have found ways to live happy, comfortable lives on SSI. Here’s how they did it: “How I Get By On SSI”


Updated April 2018. Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: 

6 thoughts on “How to Survive on SSI”

  1. I live on SSI
    I was content in my income based apartment, but now thanks to inheritance, I own paid for house.
    I’m devastated that I can’t afford property taxes and bills.
    I will lose this nice house and be homeless.

    Like

    1. One option is to sell the house and work with a special needs lawyer to put the funds in a trust. Or you may be able to put the house in a trust, then the trust can sell it.

      Then you can go back to income-based housing, plus draw funds from the trust when needed.

      Also, many areas offer property tax relief to people who are low income.

      Like

  2. Well, I actually have a remarkable story about being approved for SSI Disability and was accepted only about 2-3 years after first being hit with CFS. I had literally been going through hell from a horrible disease that took me out of the game almost 20 years ago and very quickly. I was an avid weight lifter, played sports, ate properly, etc., but that made absolutely no difference as CFS, was, and is, truly a catastrophic disease. The next horror was finding out that not many doctors knew much about CFS and the others just stubbornly believed that it wasn’t even a real disease. It was just all in my head. I did my research about SSI, learned what to do, but always thought that I would be turned down the first try and then I would just hire a lawyer. I really have no idea, how or why, but I was approved on my first try and completely on my own, with no additional help filling out the paperwork or anything. It now has been many years so I can’t remember the process entirely but the very last thing they requested was for me to be evaluated by a really well known psychologist of their choosing. That worried me but it went fine and I was approved soon after. One try! I have had two or three evaluations, the first one was rather extensive but the last two were actually easy on my part and they mostly relied on whatever it was that my doctor told them, I have no idea what he reported to them, at all. I have always been and still am extremely terrified that I will be denied SSI one day in the future, for some reason or another because of being very unfortunate to have a disease that is so misunderstood and controversial. I wish that I could offer more information or tips on exactly what I did to be approve the first time but I truly have no idea!

    Like

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