Supplemental Security Income (SSI):
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program based on financial need. It is different than Social Security benefits. Many people who are eligible for SSI may also be entitled to receive Social Security benefits. In fact, the application for SSI is also an application for Social Security benefits. However, SSI and Social Security are different in many ways.
Unlike Social Security benefits, SSI benefits are not based on an individual’s prior work or a family member's prior work. SSI payments are paid from federal general revenue funds, which Social Security administers. The distinction is important because rules and regulations for SSI benefits are very different than those for Social Security benefits.
SSI payments can be paid to elders age 65 or older (aged) and to blind or disabled people of any age (including children). Recipients must meet very strict income and resource guidelines. Aged individuals do not have to meet disability guidelines. Disabled clients need to follow the process outlined in the SSI section at www.socialsecurity.gov. The Disability Determination Service (DDS) will make a decision about the individual’s disability. However, if your client is found to be disabled for Social Security (SSDI), they are also considered disabled for SSI.
In addition, to get SSI, your client must:
- Live in one of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands, except for a child of military parent(s) assigned to permanent duty anywhere outside the United States (U.S.) or certain students temporarily abroad;
- Be either a U.S. citizen or national of the U.S. or in one of certain categories of eligible non–citizens; and
- File an application
The first date for which payment can begin is generally the first day of the month following the later of the date; (1) the application is filed or (2) the individual becomes eligible for such benefits. The monthly payment amount varies up to the federal benefit rate (FBR). The FBR is set by law and is usually adjusted yearly for a cost of living allowance (COLA). In 2013, the most an SSI beneficiary can receive is $710.00 per month. If both members of a couple qualify, they may receive as much as $1,066.00. Checks are paid on the first day of the month unless that date falls on a weekend or holiday.
Because SSI is needs-based, we consider the client’s income, both earned and unearned. We also take into account the income of certain family members living in the same household (i.e. ineligible spouses, parents, stepparents, ineligible children, etc.)
Income is any item an individual received in cash or in-kind that can be used to meet his or her need for food or shelter. For SSI purposes, income includes the receipt of any item which can be applied, either directly or by sale or conversion, to meet basic needs of food or shelter (e.g. wages, self employment, Social Security benefits, pensions, etc.). Although some types of income do not affect the SSI benefit, most income counts. Individual Indian Monies (IIM) paid on Indian lands are not counted in certain cases unless the client receives more than $2000 per year. Although some types of income do not affect the SSI benefit, most income counts.
Your client is responsible for reporting any changes in the household’s income. These changes must be reported to Social Security as soon as possible by no later than the 10th day of the next month. In most cases, the income reported will not change the SSI check until two months later unless the income makes the client totally ineligible for SSI.
Income may also include the value of food and shelter received from others. This can reduce the SSI check by up to 1/3 of the federal benefit rate of $710.00. For 2013, this amount is $234.30.
As a program based on need, SSI also considers the value of a person’s resources, including those of spouses and /or parents living in the same household, as one of the
criteria in determining eligibility. An individual (or couple) with countable resources in excess of the statutory limit is not eligible for SSI.
Resources for SSI include but are not limited to:
- Real estate
- Bank accounts
- Stocks and bonds
- Multiple vehicles
- Life insurance policies (with a cash surrender value)
- Any other valuable items that could be turned into cash
- An individual’s resource limit is $2000 and a couple’s is $3000.
- A child may have up to $2000 in resources in addition to the parents having $2000 (one parent household) or $3000 (two parent household).
- Some resources may not count, such as Indian lands and a home that serves as the individual’s primary residence. However, clients must report when they sell any property. The money they receive may count as a resource the following month.
There are additional rules about getting SSI when an individual lives in certain types of institutions and receives SSI. If an institution is involved, your client will need to contact Social Security.
Q and A
Q. If my client receives the maximum SSI Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) and their expenses increase, will their payments be increased?
A. SSI benefits are based on need, but the maximum Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) is established by law, not monthly expenses.
Q. What is the definition of disability for children filing for Supplemental Security Income?
A. Social Security has a strict definition of disability for children. The child must have a medical condition that results in ―marked and severe functional limitations. This means that the condition seriously limits the child’s daily activities and has lasted or is expected to last at least one year or will end in death.
Q. Can I assist my client in applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability (SSDI), or Medicare at our Tribal Social Services Office?
A. Social Security, but no SSI, claims can be filed online. Phone appointments with the local Social Security office can be made by calling 1-800-772-1213. You can also assist your client if the local tribal social services office receives scheduled visits from Social Security Administration (SSA) employees.
Q. Is there a way of getting an increase to my clients’ SSI payments if their Individual Indian Money Account (IIM) monies are not distributed as scheduled?
A. If your client has not received their IIM monies as scheduled, you should have them contact SSA and let them determine if this will affect their SSI benefit. Remind your client that any changes in income or resources for the household must be reported to Social Security as soon as possible, but no later than the 10th day of the following month. They can call 1-800-772-1213 or their local office.
Q. If my client receive an annual cash allotment from his/her tribe (for whatever reason), does he/she need to report it to SSA?
A. If your client receive annual cash allotments from his/her tribe while on the SSI program, these monies need to be reported to help avoid overpayment/underpayment situations. The various tribal monies are counted differently; therefore, your client should contact SSA to see how or if these monies will be counted.
Q. Will my client’s annual Tribal or Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) cash allotment affect his/her eligibility for SSI or SSDI cash benefits?
A. Annual Tribal or BIA Cash allotments can affect eligibility for SSI only. Report the allotments to SSA and let us determine if or how they will affect your client’s benefits.
Q. Are my client’s BIA IIM monies counted differently than his/her revenue distribution (casino) monies?
A. BIA IIM and revenue distribution can be counted differently depending upon the type of disbursement made to your client. Report these to SSA for a determination.
Q. Do per capita monies impact an SSI check?
A. Per capita distributions of all funds held in trust by the Secretary of the Interior to members of an Indian tribe are excluded from income and resources. If the funds are not held in trust by the Secretary of the Interior, they will be counted under the income and resource rules.
Q. If a person on SSI is institutionalized and Medicaid is not paying 50% of the cost of the stay, but Indian Health Service is paying the cost , will the SSI payment be reduced?
A. The payment will not be reduced unless food and shelter is being provided which could cause a reduction to apply.
Q. If an SSI recipient goes into an institution, whose responsibility (the institution, Indian Health Service or the client’s payee) is it to submit the form that can continue the benefits for 90 days?
A. When the institution has a policy to submit the physician and claimant statements directly to the local SSA office as soon as a recipient enters the facility the payment continuation process works more smoothly.
Q. Can babies born prematurely receive SSI benefits?
A. Social Security does provide SSI disability benefits to certain low birth weight infants, whether or not they are premature. A child who weighs less than 1200 grams (about two pounds, ten ounces) at birth can qualify for SSI on the basis of low birth weight, if otherwise eligible. A child who weighs between 1200 and 2000 grams at birth (about four pounds six ounces) AND who is considered small for his or her gestational age may also qualify. Contact your local SSA office for more information.
- Effective October 1973, per capita distribution payments to members of Indian tribes who are due judgment funds according to a plan of the Secretary of the Interior are excluded from income & resources.
- Effective January 1983, Indian judgment funds held in trust or distributed per capita under an approved plan are excluded from income & resources.
- Effective August 1983, per capita distributions to members of an Indian tribe of all funds held in trust by the Secretary of the Interior are excluded from income & resources.
- Effective February 1988 under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, cash, stock or land received from a native corporation are excluded from income & resources.
- Up to $2,000 per year in payments from individual interests in Indian trust lands is excluded from income and the land itself is excluded from resources.
AIAN Exclusions Q and A
Q. Can my clients apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability (SSDI), Medicaid or Medicare at their Tribal Social Services Office?
A. If your clients’ Tribal Social Services Office receives scheduled visits from Social Security Administration (SSA) employees, they can apply when SSA visits the office.
If there are no scheduled visits, the Tribal Social Services Office can help your clients with the SSA forms and gathering the information they need to complete them. Tribal Social Services Offices are gaining more training and knowledge of SSA programs. They can help clients contact Social Security directly by going online to locate their nearest office to visit or call by telephone.
Q. Is there a way of getting an increase to SSI benefits if an Individual Indian Money Account (IIM) monies are not distributed as scheduled? Should my client contact an SSA representative?
A. If your clients have not received their IIM monies as scheduled, contact SSA and let us determine if this will affect their SSI benefits.
Q. If I receive an annual cash allotment from my tribe (for whatever reason), do I need to report it to SSA?
A. If you receive annual cash allotments from your tribe while on the SSI program, these monies need to be reported to help avoid overpayment/underpayment situations. Different tribal monies are counted differently. It is important to contact SSA to see how or if these monies will be counted.
Q. Will my clients’ annual Tribal or Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) cash allotment affect their eligibility for SSI or SSDI cash benefits?
A. Annual Tribal or BIA Cash allotments can affect eligibility for SSI. Report the allotments to SSA and let us determine if or how they will affect your clients’ benefits.
Q. Will my clients’ distributions from an Alaska native village or village corporation affect their eligibility for SSI or SSDI cash benefits?
A. Annual distributions from Alaska native villages or village corporations can affect eligibility for SSI. Report the allotments to SSA and let us determine how they may or may not be counted.
Q. Are my clients’ BIA IIM monies counted differently than their revenue distribution (casino) monies?
A. BIA IIM and revenue distribution can be counted differently depending upon the type of disbursement made to your clients. It is important to report these to SSA for determination. SSA will explain how they may or may not be counted.
Q. Can my clients go to their Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation program to use their Ticket to Work?
A. No, they cannot. Currently, only three Tribal VR programs are operating as SSA Employment Networks (ENs) service providers and can accept their Ticket – they are, Jemez Pueblo, the Moapa Band of Paiute, and the Easter Shoshone tribes. We are working to streamline the process for all Tribal VR programs to become ENs. All Tribal VR programs are automatically eligible to become EN service providers, and 35-40 of the 87 Tribal VR programs are planning to become ENs once the agreement is available. Please check with your local Tribal VR program about their plans to become an EN.
Q. How does Medicare and Medicaid work with my client’s eligibility for medical services under Indian Health Service (IHS)? Can he/she use all of them at the same time?
A. Medicare and Medicaid can be used at an HIS clinic or reservation hospital for medical service the Indian Health Service does not cover. Additional information about Medicare and Medicaid can be found at www.cms.hhs.gov, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) website.
Q. Can my client still go to his/her community based IHS clinic or reservation hospital?
A. They can still go to their HIS clinic or reservation hospital. They can also go to a different clinic or hospital that accepts Medicare/Medicaid.
For additional information about the Indian Health Service please check the IHS’ Frequently Asked Questions web page at: