Figuring the Trip Budget: First SSI Meeting as an Adult

Supplemental Security Income for adults provides financial assistance for daily living to people with disabilities who are 18 and older and who have limited financial resources. These are some of the basic things I’ve learned about SSI:

  • Even though you apply through the social security office, SSI is not Social Security. It’s a financial assistance program.
  • The maximum federal benefit for one person is $750 per month to cover expenses like rent, utilities, and food.
  • Qualifying for SSI often means a person also qualifies for Medicaid in many states. Medicaid is a free or low cost healthcare program for people with a qualifying disability or low income. Medicaid can be a primary or supplementary insurance.
  • People who receive SSI also can’t have more than $2000 in assets unless they have an ABLE account.
  • You can get lots of great information about applying for SSI from the Social Security Administration website , the SSA Supplemental Security Income handbookDisability Benefits Center, and Disability Secrets by NOLO.

Preparing for the first SSI meeting can be intimidating. What do I bring? What do I say? What if they ask me trick questions? Do we go in person, apply online, or make a call?

Below is a list of things that the person with the disability needs to bring to the first meeting:

  1. Social Security card or a record of your Social Security number. Pretty basic.
  2. Your birth certificate or other proof of your age. Also pretty basic.
  3. Information about the home where you live, such as your mortgage or your lease and landlord’s name.
    Note to parents: If your adult child with a disability lives at home with you, you will need to write up a rental agreement. I wanted one that was written in plain language so Andy could really understand. SSI can only cover the cost of housing if you plan to charge your child rent. Rent can either by the fair market value for renting a room in your home or the mortgage divided by the number of people in the home to determine “fair share.” And sometimes the Social Security representative will ask if you would evict your child if they failed to pay rent. If you want their child to receive SSI for rent, then you need to confirm that you would either evict them or give your child a loan that he or she would need to pay back. For parents, this can seem like a harsh trick question because you wouldn’t ever want to do that to your child with a disability, but the problem is that if the parent does not charge rent over time for an adult child, the parent may not end up being able to afford to help their child as they both age.
  4. Payroll slips, bank books, insurance policies, burial fund records, and other information about your income and the things you own.
    Note to everyone: Be absolutely complete in providing payroll slips, and even if your SSI payment is somewhat reduced because of income, it’s better to work! You still end up receiving more total money when you combine income and SSI, and working is such a valuable source of self esteem and value in a community. So Andy can get a job like you see in the picture while also getting some additional help from SSI. SSI often isn’t even reduced if the person with a disability is still a student (Student Earned Income Exclusion For SSI). The only key is to pay attention to how income can impact Medicaid–if your job doesn’t provide benefits. Reporting wages also isn’t even so tough anymore because there’s an app for that!
    Note to parents: A life insurance policy on your child in case of death doesn’t count as an asset.
  5. The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of doctors, hospitals, and clinics that you have been to, if you are applying for SSI because you have a disability.
    Note to parents: This can be a long list for a child with medical issue, so work on this will take up the most time for many of us.
  6. Proof of U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizen status
  7. Your checkbook or other papers that show your bank, credit union, or savings and loan account number.
    Note to parents: It is much easier if you set up this bank account as a joint bank account before your child turns 18. After 18, your child will need a state-issued ID to open a bank account. You need this for the first meeting because, if approved, SSI funds will be deposited directly into that account electronically. Also be sure to show your SSA reviewer any money in an ABLE account and make sure your SSA reviewer knows what an ABLE account is so that they don’t count it against your child as an asset.
  8. Other important stuff my friends recommended to bring to the first or second meeting:
    1. Records of expenses like food, utilities, and rent/mortgage to determine monthly expenses for the individual with a disability. Let the SSA reviewer know if you intend to charge your child for utilities and food that will need to be paid by SSI. Again, don’t feel guilty if you really need that help because the SSA reviewer will ask you things like, “Aren’t you going to just pay those things for your child?” And even though you may have paid those expenses throughout their childhood, most parents don’t continue to subsidize those expenses for an adult child while also saving up extra funds to help that child in the future.
    2. Any related diagnosis or disability-related information like psychological evaluations, test results, medical notes, or Individualized Education Plans

Some of my friends whose whose son or daughter has a more complicated diagnosis have received an expedited process and received determinations within a few weeks, but it’s supposed to usually take a few months. We’re still waiting … My understanding is also that once approved, you usually get a minimum amount and then go back to demonstrate if additional financial support is needed based on the expenses. The key is to get the help you truly need, but also pursue those dreams of working in a real job in the community!

Share with us what you learned for your first SSI meeting!