Nashville Supplemental Security Income Attorneys

Representing the disabled throughout Tennessee

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers an income-based disability program called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Unlike Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, SSI eligibility is based on need. An applicant's finances, including their assets and income, are evaluated to determine if they qualify for the program. At Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, we help clients throughout the state get the help they need, when they need it. We invite you to schedule a consultation today to discuss your case.

What is the difference between SSI and SSDI benefits?

When it comes to qualifying for benefits, SSDI and SSI are essentially identical programs. What makes the two programs different is that SSI recipients cannot receive any more than the current maximum SSI benefit. For 2019, those maximum monthly benefits are:

  • $771 for an eligible individual
  • $1,157 for an eligible couple
  • $386 for an essential person (typically a child)

(Social Security Disability benefits are based not on the person's income, but on the claimant's work credits that they paid into the system over the years and decades of employment.)

An important difference between Disability applicants and SSI applicants is that SSI claimants often do not have to endure the months long waiting period that so many Disability claimants do. In fact, you may be able to begin receiving disability benefits in the same month or soon thereafter that they became eligible.

Finally, SSI recipients can begin receiving Medicaid when they qualify for SSI. Disability recipients have a two-year waiting period from the month they became eligible for disability benefits before they can qualify for Medicare coverage.

What are the qualifications for SSI benefits?

The Social Security Administration has established the following eligibility requirements for SSI. To qualify, an individual must be at least 65 years of age, be blind, and/or be disabled. He or she must also:

  • Have limited income and resources
  • Be a U.S. citizen or in a certain category of alien (not subject to an active warrant for deportation or removal. See the SSA for details about alien qualifications for SSI)
  • Be a resident of the United States, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands
  • Not be absent from the U.S. for 3 consecutive days or more
  • Not be confined to an institution
  • Not have applied for any other cash benefits or payments
  • Give the SSA permission to contact any financial institution and request financial records about you
  • File an application and meet certain other requirements

Can minor children with disabilities receive SSI?

Per the SSA, if your minor child (up to the age of 18) has “a medically determinable physical or mental impairment,” he or she may be entitled to SSI benefits. The SSA may consider your child disabled if he or she has a condition which:

  • results marked and severe functional limitations; and
  • can be expected to result in death; or
  • has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

SSI benefits for adult children

If your child is older than 18 but younger than 65, he or she may qualify for SSI benefits if he or she has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that:

  • results in the inability to do any substantial gainful activity; and
  • can be expected to result in death; or
  • has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

How do I apply for SSI?

There are a few ways you can apply for SSI benefits in Nashville:

  1. Fill out an application
  2. Call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213(TTY 1-800-325-0778).
  3. Go to your local SSA office and have someone there help you.
  4. Ask a loved one or trusted friend to help you fill out the application.
  5. Work with your Disability lawyer to get the paperwork in order.

Understanding the income limitations of SSI benefits

Given that SSI is a needs-based disability program, in addition to meeting the SSA's definition of disabled, applicants must also pass certain income requirements. The SSA defines “limited income” as money you earn through working, or receive from:

  • Workers’ compensation
  • Unemployment
  • Social Security
  • The VA
  • Friends, family, or other people

If you receive free food or shelter, that is also counted as part of your income.

An application for SSI disability benefits begins in a local Social Security Administration field office with an in-person interview. The SSA prefers to interview SSI applicants in person because they will be asking many questions about your financial status, and they want to review documents related not only to your medical condition, but your financial condition. Here is some of what they may review:

  • Your bank accounts
  • Your retirement accounts
  • What vehicles you have
  • What property you own
  • Your insurance properties
  • Any valuables or collections (like art of jewelry) that could be converted to cash

Once they have completed the investigation of your finances, your claim for disability benefits will be sent to the local Disability Determination Service for review.

What happens if I earn any income while receiving SSI?

SSI has the same income restrictions as SSDI. You can earn a small amount of income without jeopardizing your benefits, but if you surpass the SSA's limit, which they refer to as "substantial gainful activity," (SGA) you could lose your monthly disability benefits. SGA for non-blind individuals in 2018 is $1,180. SGA does not apply for the blind who receive SSI. Additionally, if you are receiving workers' compensation benefits, your SSI benefits will be reduced.

Why you want a Nashville SSI benefits lawyer to help you make a claim

Since you can fill out your SSI paperwork, you might be asking yourself “Why should I hire a Nashville injury lawyer to help me with my Supplemental Security Income claim?” The short answer is, because we know how to help, and because it won’t cost you anything.

Unfortunately, the approval rate for initial SSI applications is not any more favorable than for SSDI, and this can be especially true if you try to apply on your own. Even if you meet all of the income criteria, it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get the additional benefits. Mistakes on your application, problems with your medical records, misunderstandings about deadlines: all of these can contribute to a denial of your claim. A skilled Nashville SSI lawyer can be very helpful in gathering medical evidence and financial reports, preparing your disability application and preparing a compelling case on your behalf should an appeal be necessary.

How do SSI attorneys get paid?

The fee structure established by the SSA is the same for every disability lawyer or non-attorney disability advocate, which is 25% of the back-pay lump sum payment up to $6,000 or whichever amount is less.

EXAMPLE: If you hire an attorney to represent you, and your SSI claim is backdated for 2 months, you will be entitled to $1542 ($771 per month, for 2 months). Your SSI attorney is entitled to 25% of the total backpay, or $385.50. Therefore, you would receive a total of $1156.50.

Working with a skilled Nashville SSI attorney will not guarantee that your claim will improve your chances of receiving benefits significantly. Having representation from the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm through every stage of the appeals process will give you confidence that you have strong representation and that your application is in the best shape possible.

Schedule a free consultation with a skilled Nashville SSI lawyer today

Need help claiming Supplemental Security Income? It’s Rocky to the rescue! Our SSI lawyers and ready and able to help you get the benefits you need. Call Rocky McElhaney Law Firm at 615-425-2500 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation at our Nashville, Hendersonville, or Knoxville office.