An SSI appointment is a financial interview to see if you are eligible for SSI. Basically, they are checking to see how poor you are. They also ask about your household, living situation, and rent, to help decide how much SSI you will get.
Are You Having an SSI Interview?
Before reading this article, it’s a good idea to double check that you are actually having an SSI interview. That way you won’t need the whole page for no reason!
🌟 If you received a letter, it should tell you if this is an SSI interview. It may also tell you to bring or have financial information, such as bank statements, and proof of rent. In the letter, this interview might also be called “PERC” or “Pre-effectuation Review Contact” or “SSI Redetermination.”
🌟 There are other kinds of reasons Social Security might be contacting you or asking you to call them. If you are not sure why Social Security is contacting you, please take a look here: Different kinds of Social Security Interviews and Phone Calls.
🌟 This interview only happens for SSI. If you are currently receiving SSDI, Social Security will not contact you for a financial interview. Here’s how to tell The Difference Between SSI and SSDI
How The SSI Interview Happens
There are three ways an SSI interview can get started:
🌟 Social Security will contact you – They will probably send you a letter telling you when the interview is scheduled.
🌟 You can contact Social Security to apply – If you have not yet applied for disability, you can call them a schedule and interview to apply. Or you can apply online or through a lawyer.
🌟 You can contact Social Security to change your SSI check – If you are already on SSI, you can request a new SSI interview any time you want. Sometimes people call and request an appointment because they’ve had a change in income or living situation and they are requesting that their check be adjusted.
When The Interview Happens
🌟 If You Apply Online or Through a Lawyer – After you submit your application, you may be contacted for an SSI interview. It may happen a few weeks after you first apply, or it may not happen until after you are approved.
🌟 If You Apply in Person – You will set up an appointment at your local office.
🌟 After Approval – The interview will happen shortly after you get your approval letter.
🌟 Ongoing – The SSI Interview will then repeat every few years. In some states, for mysterious reasons, it doesn’t happen every few years, or never happens! That’s the mystery of Social Security.
How The Interview Happens
🌟 It can happen by phone or in person. If they schedule you in person, and you would prefer phone, you can call your local office and request a phone interview instead.
🌟 Most of our readers report that they had no problem getting there interview switched to being over the phone. If you run into any problems, you can always request a disability accommodation, if your disability makes it difficult to travel to the office in person. You can also ask to speak to a supervisor.
What Happens At Your Interview?
An SSI Interview is questions about your finances and living situation. Here is a few tips it may be helpful to keep in mind:
🌟 There is no need to be nervous for an SSI interview. This interview is only about finances they will not be deciding your disability.
🌟 The person you are meeting has no power to decide if you are disabled, and will not be involved in that decision. However, some interviewers may make a short note in your file about how you look or act during the interview.
🌟 You do not have to convince this person that you are in need. The person interviewing you is not giving you SSI because she likes you or feels sorry for you.
🌟 The interviewer is just collecting answers to financial questions. She is collecting information and typing it into the computer, so the computer can calculate your SSI amount.
🌟 It is best to be brief, clear and honest. She needs to get your answers and type them into the computer, so she can move on to the next person.
🌟 If you are feeling anxious before your interview, it may help you to try to feel compassion or understanding for your Social Security worker. Handling SSI interviews is not always the most fun job in the world. The person doing your interview may have to deal all day long with people who are either upset at them or frightened of them. Plus an endless amount of bureaucracy and paperwork.
Is This Interview Important?
🌟 If you are not poor, this interview does not matter, since you can’t get SSI. How Poor Do I Have to Be to Get SSI?
🌟 If you are applying for both SSI and SSDI, this interview may or may not matter. If your SSDI is really low, you might get some of both. If your SSDI is average or high, you won’t qualify for SSI. If you want to learn more about this, you can take a look here: Can I Get Both SSI and SSDI?
🌟 Tip: If you are poor, you should always go to your interview, because there is a funny loophole where you might get some extra SSI backpay.
What Will They Ask During the Interview?
🌟 They will ask about your bank account and assets.
🌟 They will ask how much rent you pay or how much mortgage you pay.
🌟 They will ask if anyone else is helping pay your rent, food, or utilities.
🌟 They will ask if anyone is giving you free rent, food, or utilities.
🌟 They will ask if you have any other income.
🌟 They may ask about your living arrangement and who you live with.
🌟 If you are renting a room in someone’s house, then they may ask about the total mortgage and expenses for the house, so they can see if you are paying the correct amount of rent. (For example, if you live in a house owned by your mother, and pay rent to your mother for the room you are in.) Alternately, you may be able to show them a letter from the homeowner stating that you are paying “fair market rate,” if your rent is about average for a room in your area.
🌟 If you live with a boyfriend or girlfriend they may ask questions to see if you are functioning in a way that is similar to a married couple, so they can decide whether to count that person’s income. This is called Holding Out as Married. If Social Security decides that you are holding out as married, in most cases, this means your SSI check will be reduced, or may be eliminated (depending on the other persons income and savings).
Does anything else happen during the interview?
Most SSI interviews are just questions about your finances and living arrangements. However there are a few circumstances where you will be asked other questions during the interview:
🌟 If you were recently approved, they may ask you questions to see if you need a representative payee, or to see who you would like to have appointed as your payee. This most often happens if you were approved for mental health or cognitive problems.
🌟 If you are starting a brand new application and you have not yet submitted anything to Social Security, then during your interview the Social Security worker will help you fill out all the forms so that you can apply. They will ask many more questions about your work history, medical history, and doctors.
🌟 The most common problem people have at SSI interviews are issues around rent, food and utilities. All of these things can make an SSI check go up or down. Please read the links above to learn more.
🌟 If you are a parent of a minor child who is disabled, when your child turns 18, the SSI rules for rent, food and utilities will start to apply. For example: Suzy lives with her parents. When she turns 18, she begins using her SSI to pay her parent’s rent for the room she is living in. She also pays for her own food and her part of the utilities. Her SSI check is not reduced.
🌟 Some people wind up getting a reduced check when they are first approved, and then the check stays lowered…. for five or ten years. This happens because people do not know that when they change their arrangements they can get their check reassessed. Or it happens because they do know, but they are too scared, intimidated or confused to try to navigate the process.
🌟 Another common problem is if you have income, and you reported your income, but Social Security did not lower your check when they were supposed to. This means they may want some money back! It probably won’t happen right during the interview, but they will send you a letter later saying you have an “overpayment.” If this happens learn more about: How To Respond When Social Security Tells You That You Owe Money Back
🌟 Another problem that sometimes happens is Social Security discovers something they did not know about your living arrangement. For example, they discover you have not been paying rent, or you are not paying your full share of the rent, or you moved in with a boyfriend or girlfriend in a marriage-like arrangement. All of these things can make your check lower and also may mean you owe money back.
🌟 It can also go the other way! They may also discover something that makes your check higher. For example, you separated from your spouse or you started paying rent.
🌟 Some people run into problems if they have too much savings or own too many cars or other things of value. If this is your situation, there are some special regulations and policies that may help you. Please take a look at: How Will Savings Effect My SSI Check?
🌟 Some people run into problems if they have too much income. If this is your situation, there are some special regulations and policies that may help you. Please take a look at: How Will Income Effect My SSI Check?
🌟 A final common problem people have is a mistake being made on their SSI case. There are a lot of complex SSI rules and the people who do the SSI interviews do not always know them all. It is possible you will know a rule that they do not know. If this happens, you may need to be firm and repeat yourself or ask to speak to a supervisor who does know the policies. If that doesn’t work, try contacting your congressperson. You can also try some of these What to Say When Someone Tells You “No” or “Not Possible” or “You Don’t Qualify”
Here’s two examples we recently heard from readers:
“I told the interviewer that the rent money my friend had given me was a loan and showed her that we had a loan agreement. The interviewer did not know the policies about loan agreements, so she counted it as a gift and lowered my SSI backpay check. I had to go into the office and meet with a supervisor to straighten it out and raise the check.”
“I told the interviewer that we planned to use our daughter’s SSI to pay her share of the rent. The interviewer did not apply the correct rent policy and lowered her SSI check as if she were getting free rent. I went back and met with a different worker to fix the problem.”
🌟 If you are applying or recently approved, take a look here: How to Apply for SSI Without Falling into Quicksand.
🌟 If you are already receiving SSI, take a look here: How to Stay Out of Hot Water with SSI
🌷 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
🌷 It’s not easy to get by financially on SSI. But it’s totally possible! How to Survive on SSI
🌷 If you are starting a new application and would like to take extra steps to try to get approved quickly, check out: How to Get Approved for Disability The First Time You Apply
🌷 If you were recently approved, check out: Everything No One Ever Tells You After You Get Approved for Disability