Guidebook: Setting Up the First Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Visit

Yesterday I called the Social Security office to set up our appointment to get evaluated for Supplemental Security Income, and we’ll be heading over to the office in two weeks. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can help people with disabilities over 18 by giving them cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and housing (and children with disabilities under 18 whose parents have a qualifying income). In most states, qualifying for SSI also means an individual can receive Medicaid health coverage, which is very important for people with disabilities who often have extra health needs.

I’ve been fortunate to have two other wonderful friends of kids with disabilities who have given me great tips along the way, and I work for a great organization that creates resources to help families like mine. Here’s what I learned from them so far:

  1. I learned from the free KentuckyWorks Benefits Module that my son’s part-time high school job at a grocery story wouldn’t have a negative impact on his benefits. It’s really better for him to work! I loved this training module because it helped me figure out the math. That’s especially helpful for a former English major with limited math skills!
  2. I also learned that the individual with the disability must be 18 to be evaluated for benefits based on their own income (not the parents’ income), so don’t go in for the appointment before then. The only thing I needed to do was call the local office to set up the appointment.
  3. Some parents have said they are made to feel guilty about applying for benefits–hearing things like, “Would you really charge your child rent?” And, yes, it is both acceptable and practical for parents to charge their adult children with disabilities rent and other household expenses. Fundamentally, society is much better when we all agree that making it financially feasible for people with disabilities to remain in their communities, among their family and friends, benefits everyone.
    1. Any other adult child living with a parent would be expected to contribute to the household, and there are often more expenses when providing food and lodging for an adult family member with a disability.
    2. When parents historically did not providing that food, lodging, and care, the state provided those services in much more costly institutions that were rampant with abuse.
    3. Someday families may not be around, so people with disabilities need the services in place to pay for their care.
    4. Ideally, Andy will be as independent as possible and hopefully will need those funds in place to pay rent for a home where he lives on his own or with roommates.
  4. My friends recommended filling out the application ahead of time and bringing all the documentation. They said don’t forget the list of the doctors and specialists (a LONG list for some of us) and the proof of the individual’s income (not the family’s income).
  5. The social security representative said the individual with a disability needs to have a bank account set up with an account number and routing number available for direct deposit.

Note: You can also apply for SSI online. It seemed better to me for both of us to show up in person, but has anyone tried the online method? Outcomes?

What have been your experiences setting up the first appointment and applying for SSI?