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.
This interview only happens for SSI. It does not happen for SSDI. Here’s how to tell: What’s The Difference Between SSI and SSDI?
Are You REALLY 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 read the whole page for no reason!
🌟 If you are already on SSI, and you received a letter for an upcoming phone appointment, the answer is probably yes. Very likely this is an SSI interview. The letter might also say “SSI Redetermination” or might ask you for information on your finances or rent.
🌟 If you recently applied for disability or recently got approved, and you received a letter for an upcoming phone appointment, the answer is probably yes. Very likely this is an SSI interview. The letter might also say “Supplemental Security Income” or “PERC” or “Pre-effectuation Review Contact”. It might say they are checking if you meet the “non-medical” or “non-disability” requirements.
🌟 If your letter doesn’t indicate that this is an SSI interview, there might contacting you for some other reason: Different kinds of Social Security Interviews.
🌟 It’s also a good idea to check and see if you’re actually applying for SSI. Sometimes people think they are applying for both SSI and SSDI, but the SSI part turns out to be meaningless. Again, you don’t want to learn all the SSI rules if you don’t have to! Am I Actually Applying For SSI?
🌟 If you first became disabled before age 22, and one parent is now deceased, retired or disabled, you may be applying for Disabled Adult Child benefits. Depending how high the benefit is, you may or may not also get some SSI. Pro tip: If at all possible, try to qualify for at least one month of SSI while the other benefits are processing, there are some special Medicaid rules that may benefit you ongoingly.
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
🌟 When First Applying – If you apply in person at your local office, they will probably ask you these questions while you are there. 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.
🌟 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.
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.
🌟 There are rumors that some interviewers may make a short note in your file about how you look or act during the interview. However, according to Magnolia this is rare and she’s never actually seen such a note.
🌟 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.
What Will They Ask During the Interview?
Marriage, Boyfriends, and Girlfriends
🌟 If you live with your spouse, they will ask everything about your spouse’s income, savings and assets. Your spouse’s income will usually impact your SSI. This is called “Deeming” One common issue with married couples is Owning Two Cars
🌟 If you do not live with your spouse, they will not included your spouse’s finances. This is only if the separation is intended to be permanent.
🌟 They will sometimes ask questions about a boyfriend or girlfriend if you live together. These rules are called Holding Out as Married. If they determine you are holding out as married, they will include this person’s income and treat this person as if they were your spouse, even though you are not legally married.
Other People You Live With
🌟 If you are a parent applying for your disabled child, they will ask about your finances (only if child is under 18). They will only include parents who live in the home. This is called “Deeming”
🌟 They will not ask about finances of other people you live with. They only care about spouses, parents of minor children, and sometimes boyfriends or girlfriends. I Live with Other People. Does Their Money Count?
Resources and Savings
🌟 They will ask about your bank account and things you own. Resource limit is $2,000 for single people. $3,000 for married couples. Resource limit for children on SSI is more complicated: How Much is the SSI Resource Limit?
🌟 They will look at all bank accounts that have your name on them and most other things you own. They don’t count one car, a house you live in, and ordinary household items. Resources only count at the end of the month and not everything counts as a resource: What Counts as a Resource for SSI?
🌟 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 to know: If You Are Over the SSI Resource Limit
Income and Gifts
🌟 They will ask about your income from work or other sources. If you are working and would like to learn more: How Working Impact SSI.
🌟 They won’t count as income: any loans, many forms of student financial aid, food stamps, housing vouchers, gifts into an ABLE account or Special Needs Trust, most types of government assistance and some other things: How You Can (and can’t) Make Money While on SSI
🌟 If you live with your spouse, they will not count any money or gifts your spouse gives you, or if your spouse pays your bills. (Your spouse’s income has already been included on your SSI case)
🌟 They will ask if anyone else has been giving you money or helping pay your rent, food, or utilities. If anyone else has given you these things, it’s important to let Social Security know if the money was a loan or a gift. More on: Loans from Friends or Family and valid loan agreements.
🌟 They won’t ask about non-cash gifts that are ordinary household items. They will not care about gifts such as books, clothes, electronics, furniture, medical supplies, etc. Some other types of gifts also won’t count. How You Can (and can’t) Get Gifts on SSI
🌟 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 to know: How Will Income Effect My SSI Check?
🌟 If you live with your spouse, they will not care if your spouse pays your bills. (Your spouse’s income has already been included on your SSI case)
🌟 They will ask if anyone else is giving you a free place to stay, or free rent, food, or utilities. A live-in spouse doesn’t count. If anyone else has given you these things, it’s important to let Social Security know if you have made an agreement to pay this back: rental loan agreements.
🌟 They will ask how much rent you pay or how much mortgage you pay. If you have a landlord, they may inquire if your landlord is charging you the same amount as they would charge any other tenant.
🌟 If you live with other people, they will check to see if you are paying your fair share of the rent or mortgage and utilities. They have a formula for deciding your fair share: How Much Rent to Pay on SSI
🌟 They won’t ask if anyone is paying your other bills (as long as no money went directly to you). They only care if someone pays rent, food, utilities. They do not care who pays phone, internet, car insurance, medical bills, etc. I’m On SSI. Can a Person or Program Pay My Bills?
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. A representative payee is someone who will handle your disability money.
🌟 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.
Try Not to Freak Out (Too Much)
A lot of people get very stressed about their first SSI interview. It may be helpful to know that if your interview doesn’t go well, you can always request another one! You can request an unlimited number. Examples:
🌷 Jane gets turned down for SSI because she had $100 too much in her bank account. Then she pays her rent and buys groceries. Next month, she requests a new SSI interview and brings her bank account information and receipts for how the money was spent. The SSI worker finds she is under the limit and Jane gets approved.
🌷 John gets turned down for SSI because he owns two cars. Later that month, John sells one of his cars and pays off his medical bills. He requests another SSI interview and shows receipts for how he sold the car and spent the money. He also brings proof that he sold the car at fair market rate and did not try to give it away. The SSI worker finds he is under the limit and John gets approved.
🌷 Sally gets turned down for SSI because she doesn’t realize she is supposed to tell her worker that her husband lives elsewhere. The next week she requests a new appointment, and brings copies of her husband’s lease, driver’s license, and utility bills. The SSI worker removes her husband’s income and Sally gets approved.
🌷 Jake applies for his child and gets turned down because he had been saving money for his child’s college. The next day, Jake opens an ABLE account for his child and places the college savings in the account. Jake requests a new SSI interview and brings copies of the ABLE account statements. The SSI worker excludes the ABLE account and Jake’s son gets approved.
If your SSI gets turned down, it’s a good idea to learn some of the rules so you can see what your options are: How to Stay Out of Hot Water with SSI
🌟 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.
🌟 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.
🌟 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. You can also try some of these What to Say When Someone Tells You “No” or “Not Possible” or “You Don’t Qualify”
🌟 If you know a rule, print it out and bring it with you to show them. Sometimes you may know more than the person interviewing you.
🌟 If they send you a written decision that is incorrect, you can always appeal. Be sure to appeal in writing and don’t miss the deadline. You can also go back and request another interview (but it is still good not to miss the deadline for written appeal). It can also be incredibly helpful to try contacting your congressperson.
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