Need to Know to Get SSI Benefits

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Social Security--What You Need To Know When You Get SSI

Why You Should Read This Booklet

This booklet is for people who get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) checks. The first part, Your SSI Checks, tells about your checks and what you can expect from Social Security. The second part, What You Should Report To Us, tells what changes you must report. The third part tells how and when to report changes. The fourth part explains some special rules for people who get SSI disability. The last part of the booklet explains other things all SSI recipients should know.

Please take a few minutes now to read the booklet. Then put it in a safe place and look at it now and then. This will help remind you to report any changes to us and remind you of things you should know.

If you get Social Security retirement or survivors benefits, you also should read What You Need To Know When You Get Social Security Retirement Or Survivors Benefits (Publication No. 05-10077). If you get Social Security disability benefits, you should read What You Need To Know When You Get Social Security Disability Benefits (Publication No. 05-10153). You can get these booklets from Social Security.

Social Security s Toll-Free Number; 1-800-772-1213.
Call 24-hours a day, including weekends and holidays.
To Speak to a representative, call between 7 a.m. and
7 p.m. any business day. Internet address:
http://www.ssa.gov

 

What's Inside

Part 1--Your SSI Checks
Amount Of Your Check
When Does Your Check Come?
If Your Check Is Lost Or Stolen
Direct Deposit Of Checks
Returning Payments Not Due
Reviewing Your Case

Part 2--What You Should Report To Us
If You Move Or Change Your Address
If Someone Moves Into Or Out Of Your Household
If There's A Change In Your Income
If There's A Change In The Things You Own
If You Get Help With Living Expenses
If You Enter Or Leave An Institution
If You Get Married, Separated, Or Divorced
If You Leave The United States
If You Are A Sponsored Immigrant
If You Are Under Age 22 And Start Or Stop Attending School
If A Person Is Addicted To Drugs Or Alcohol
If A Person Getting SSI Is Not Able To Manage Funds
If A Person Getting SSI Dies
Special Rules For People In Some States

Part 3--How And When To Report Changes
How To Report
When To Report

Part 4--Other Things You Should Know If You Get SSI Disability
If You Get Better
Reviewing Your Disability
Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Special Rules To Help You Work And Keep Your SSI
A Special Note For People Who Get SSI Because They're Blind

Part 5--Other Things All SSI Recipients Should Know
If You Disagree With A Decision We Make
Your Right To Be Represented
If A Social Security Employee Visits You
Free Social Security Services
Social Services
Food Stamps
A Special Note For People With Medicare

Your Personal Information Is Safe With Social Security

For More Information

Part 1--Your SSI Checks

This section tells about your SSI checks and what you can expect from Social Security.

Amount Of Your Check

The letter you got with this booklet tells when your SSI checks will begin and in what amount. Your SSI check must be cashed within 12 months after the date of the check or it will be void.

Your first month's SSI check may be for more or less than a full month. You will be paid for the days since you applied or became eligible for SSI. Starting with your second check, you will get your full month's payment.

The amount of your SSI check may not be the same every month. The amount depends on your other income and living arrangements. We will tell you whenever we plan to change the amount of your check.

Your first and second check will be based on your first month's income. After that, your SSI check is usually based on your income from two months before.

Your federal SSI check will go up each year to keep up with the cost of living. These increases usually will be in your January check, which you'll get at the end of December.

When Does Your Check Come?

Your SSI checks are U.S. government checks. They usually come in the mail on the first of the month. If you have direct deposit, your money is usually in your account on the first.

If the first falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, you'll get your check on the banking day before.

If your check doesn't come on the usual day, look for it to come in the next few days. If it doesn't come by the fourth of the month, give us a call. We'll find out what happened and see that you get your check.

If Your Check Is Lost Or Stolen

If your check is lost or stolen, call us right away. Your check can be replaced, but it takes time. Please be careful with your checks.

It's a good idea not to sign your check until you're at the bank or place where you'll cash it. If you sign a check and then lose it, anybody who finds it can cash it.

Direct Deposit Of Checks

You can have your checks sent directly to your checking or savings account in a bank, credit union, or other financial institution. Then, you won't have to worry about lost or stolen checks and you won't have to stand in line to cash your checks. If you want to sign up for direct deposit, give us a call.

If you're using direct deposit and decide to change financial institutions, don't close your old account until your check starts going to the new one. You can call your new financial institution to make sure it has received your check.

Returning Payments Not Due

Most of the time your SSI check will be in the right amount. But, if you ever get more money than usual, call or visit your Social Security office. If the check is more than you are supposed to get, you must return the extra money to Social Security. You must return it even if it's not your fault you got it.

If you ever get a check you know you aren't supposed to get, you should take it to any Social Security office. Or, you can send the check back to the U.S. Treasury Department at the address shown on the envelope it came in. Write a note telling why you're returning the check and mail it back with the check.

If you have direct deposit and get a payment you aren't supposed to get, call or visit your Social Security office. They'll tell you how you can return it.

Reviewing Your Case

We look at every SSI case from time to time to make sure that people getting checks should still get them and are getting the right amount. These reviews are required by law. We'll tell you when it's time for your review. The review will be done by mail, phone, or in person in the Social Security office.

We'll ask you the same kind of questions you answered when you signed up for SSI. We'll need information about your income, the things you own, your living arrangements, and your bank accounts. You should keep savings or checking account statements you get from your bank because you may need them when we review your case. If you work, keep your payslips because we may need them, too.

NOTE: Don't wait for your review to tell us about any changes. You should report a change as soon as it happens. See section on What You Should Report To Us.

If you get SSI because of a disability, see section on Reviewing Your Disability for more information.

Part 2--What You Should Report To Us

This section tells what you must report to us. The section on What You Should Report To Us, tells how and when to report.

The kinds of things you must report to us are listed below. If any of these things affect you, turn to the page shown for more information.

  • If you move or change your address
  • If someone moves into or out of your household
  • If there's a change in your income
  • If there's a change in the things you own
  • If you get help with living expenses
  • If you enter or leave an institution
  • If you get married, separated, or divorced
  • If you leave the United States
  • If you are a sponsored immigrant
  • If you are under age 22 and start or stop attending school
  • If a person is addicted to drugs or alcohol
  • If a person getting SSI is not able to manage funds
  • If a person getting SSI dies

If you live in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, or Vermont, see section on Special Rules for People In Some States, for other things you should tell us.

If You Move Or Change Your Address

Let us know if you move or change your address. You must tell us your new address even if you get your checks by direct deposit rather than by mail. We need your address so we can send you information about your checks, and so we can contact you to make sure you should still get checks. If we can't find you, your checks will stop.

Also tell your post office your new address. Then, if the Social Security office doesn't get your new address in time to change it on your next check, the post office will send your check to your new address.

If Someone Moves Into Or Out Of Your Household

Let us know if there is a change in the number of people who live with you. You must tell us if:

  • Someone moves into or out of your home,
  • Someone who lives with you dies,
  • You or someone who lives with you has a baby.

Let us know if you start living in someone else's home or if you move out of someone else's home.

If There's A Change In Your Income

If you have income other than your SSI checks, you must tell us about it. Also, tell us if the amount of your income changes or stops. Usually, changes in your income in a month will affect your SSI check two months later.

If you're married, you also should let us know about any change in your husband's or wife's income.

If you have a child under 18 who gets SSI and lives with you, tell us about any change in:

  • The child's income,
  • Your income,
  • The income of your husband or wife, and
  • The income of a child in your home who is not getting SSI.

Also tell us if a child in your home who is not getting SSI marries. If a child who is working or is age 18 to 20 starts or stops attending school full time, tell us that, too.

If you also get Social Security checks, you don't have to tell us when you get a Social Security benefit increase. But, if your husband or wife gets Social Security checks, you should tell us about any change in his or her benefits.

Under SSI, income includes cash, checks, and other things you get that can be used for food, clothing, or shelter. It even includes items you wouldn't have to report for federal, state, or local income taxes. Following are examples of income.

  • Wages from your job, whether in cash or another form;
  • Net earnings from your business if you're self-employed;
  • The value of food, shelter, or clothing that someone gives you, or the amount of money they give you to help pay for them;
  • Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits;
  • Railroad retirement and railroad unemployment benefits;
  • Annuities, pensions from any government or private source, workers' compensation, unemployment insurance benefits, black lung benefits, and Social Security benefits;
  • Prizes, settlements, and awards, including court-ordered awards;
  • Proceeds of life insurance policies;
  • Gifts and contributions;
  • Support and alimony payments;
  • Inheritances in cash or property;
  • Interest earned, including interest on savings, checking, and other accounts;
  • Rental income;
  • Strike pay and other benefits from unions.

The following items are not income.

  • Medical care and services;
  • Social services;
  • Receipts from the sale, exchange, or replacement of things you own;
  • Income tax refunds;
  • Earned Income Tax Credit payments;
  • Payments made by life or disability insurance on charge accounts or other credit accounts;
  • Proceeds of a loan;
  • Bills paid by someone else for things other than food, clothing, or shelter;
  • Replacement of lost or stolen income;
  • Weatherization assistance.

Some things we normally count as income will not reduce your SSI check. For example, under certain conditions, home energy assistance provided by certain home energy suppliers isn't counted as income. Food, clothing, shelter, or home energy assistance provided free or at a reduced rate by private nonprofit organizations also isn't counted. But, you should still tell us about these things.

If There's A Change In The Things You Own

Tell us if there is any change in what you own. A single person can own things worth up to $2,000 and still get SSI. A couple can own as much as $3,000.

Many of the things you own aren't counted, however. Your home and the land it's on don't count. Depending on how much they're worth, household goods, personal property, and a car may not count. Up to $1,500 in burial funds for you and up to $1,500 in burial funds for your husband or wife don't count. Burial plots for you and your immediate family also aren't counted.

Some of the things we do count are:

  • Cash,
  • Your checking and savings accounts,
  • Christmas club account,
  • Certificates of deposit, and
  • Stocks and bonds.

If you are single and the things you own that we count add up to more than $2,000, tell us. If you are living with your husband or wife and the things you own that we count add up to more than $3,000, tell us.

Any back checks you get from SSI or Social Security won't be counted for six months after the month in which you get them. If you have any back payments left over after the six-month period, they will count.

If you agreed to sell property so you could receive SSI, you should tell us when you sell it. If you don't sell the property, you may not be able to get any more SSI checks. And you may have to return any checks we already sent you.

If your name is on any bank accounts with another person or other people, you must tell us about the account even if you do not consider that the money belongs to you. You must tell us about such an account even if you don't use the money or account. If someone wants to add your name to an account, check with us first. If the money isn't really yours or if it's for a special purpose like your medical expenses, we can tell you how to set up the account so it will not affect your SSI.

Also, tell us if you or your husband or wife buys, sells,or becomes the owner of any real estate, a car, or personal property.

If you have a child who gets SSI, you should tell us about changes in the things the child owns and the things you and your husband or wife own.

If you aren't sure if something counts, give us a call. It's our job to help you figure it out.

If You Get Help With Living Expenses

If someone gives you money, food, clothing, or free housing, let us know. Also, tell us if other people help to pay for your food, utilities, rent, or mortgage, or if the amount they pay changes.

If you used to get these things but don't get them now, tell us that, too.

If You Enter Or Leave An Institution

You must tell us if you enter or leave a residential institution, hospital, skilled nursing facility, nursing home, intermediate care facility, halfway house, jail, prison, public emergency shelter, or any other kind of institution. Let us know the name of the institution and the date you entered or left. If you aren't able to tell us, ask someone in the institution's office to help you.

You usually cannot get SSI while in an institution.

If you enter a medical institution, it's especially important to tell us right away. There are special rules if you enter a medical institution for a stay of less than 90 days. Often, you can keep getting your SSI checks if we learn about it right away. Your doctor must sign a statement about how long you will stay. You must sign a statement that you still need to pay expenses for your home while you're in the institution. We must get both statements by the 90th day you are in the institution, or the day you leave if that's earlier. But please get us the statements as soon as possible.

Also, if your spouse is institutionalized and his or her Social Security benefits are redirected to you to use for household expenses, this is countable income to you and you must report this to us.

If You Get Married, Separated, Or Divorced

Tell us if you get married or if your marriage ends. Also, tell us if you separate from your husband or wife. If you are separated now, tell us if you begin to live together again.

If You Leave The United States

Leaving the United States means leaving the 50 States, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands. Usually, if you leave the United States for 30 days or more, you can no longer get SSI.

If you plan to leave the United States, tell us before you leave. We need to know the date you plan to leave the U.S. and the date you plan to come back. Then we can tell you if your checks will be affected.

Once you have been outside the U.S. for 30 or more days in a row, your checks can't start again until you have been back in the U.S. for at least 30 straight days.

There are special rules for dependent children of military personnel who leave the U.S. They may continue to get SSI while overseas if they were receiving SSI in the month before their parent reported for overseas duty.

If You Are A Sponsored Immigrant

If you are an immigrant who is sponsored by a U.S. resident, a special rule applies to you. In deciding whether you can get SSI and how much your check will be, we look at the income of, and things owned by, all the following people:

  • Yourself (including anything you still have in your homeland);
  • Your husband or wife;
  • Your parents if you are under 18;
  • Your sponsor; and
  • Your sponsor's husband or wife.

For five years after you enter the U.S., you must report any changes in the income of, and things owned by, the above people. After the five-year period, you have to report only changes of your own, your spouse, and your parents if you are under 18. Read Part 2--What You Should Report To Us for more information about the rules on income and things you own.

This special rule doesn't apply to you if you're a refugee or if you have been granted asylum. It also doesn't apply if you become blind or disabled after being admitted for permanent residence to the U.S. If you are a sponsored immigrant and become blind or disabled, call your Social Security office.

If You Are Under Age 22 And Start Or Stop Attending School

If you are under 22, tell us if you start or stop attending school regularly. It may affect your SSI. Also, tell us the date your attendance changed.

If A Person Is Addicted To Drugs Or Alcohol

If you are receiving SSI based on disability and you also are addicted to drugs or alcohol, we will refer you to the State Substance Abuse Agency for treatment for your addiction.

A Person Getting SSI Is Not Able To Manage Funds

Sometimes a person is unable to manage his or her own funds. If this happens, someone should let Social Security know. We can then arrange to send the checks to a representative payee. A representative payee is a relative or someone else who agrees to manage and use the money for the well-being of the person getting SSI. For more information, ask Social Security for the booklet "A Guide For Representative Payees" (Publication No. 05-10076).

If A Person Getting SSI Dies

If someone getting SSI dies, somebody should tell us. If there is a surviving husband or wife who is getting SSI, the amount may be changed.

Any checks sent after the month of death or any checks not cashed or deposited before death must be returned.

If a person's checks were being deposited directly into an account in a bank, the bank should also be told of the person's death. The bank will return the checks. Checks sent to the account of a deceased recipient should not be withdrawn.

If an SSI recipient has a representative payee and the payee dies, someone should tell us.

Special Rules For People In Some States

If you live in one of the following states, there are some other things you must report to us:

* California--Let us know if you were eating your meals away from home regularly and now you are eating at home. Also let us know if you were regularly eating at home and now you eat out. Hawaii, Michigan, or Vermont Tell us if you live in a facility that provides different levels of care and the level of care you get changes.

* Massachusetts--Tell us if you (or you and your wife or husband) were paying over two-thirds of the living expenses for the household and now you pay less. Also, tell us if you were paying less than two-thirds of these expenses but now you pay more.

* New York--Let us know if you were regularly eating your meals away from home and you are now eating at home. Or, tell us if you were eating your meals at home and now you eat out. Also, if you live with other people, tell us if you used to prepare your meals by yourself and now you prepare meals together. Or, tell us if you were preparing your meals with other people and now you prepare your meals alone.

Part 3--How And When To Report Changes

How To Report

You can make your report by calling us at 1-800-772-1213. When you call, please have your Social Security number handy. You also can report by mail or in person. If you mail your report, be sure it shows:

  • The name of the person the report is about;
  • The Social Security number of the person who gets SSI checks;
  • The change being reported;
  • The date the change happened; and
  • Your signature, address, and phone number.

When To Report

You must report a change within 10 days after the month it happens. You should report a change even if you're late.

If you don't report a change, you may miss out on money you need if the change will mean you can get a bigger check. Or, you may get too much money and have to pay it back.

If you don't report a change or if you make a false statement and get money you aren't supposed to, Social Security will make you pay back the money. It also can result in a fine, imprisonment, or both.

Part 4--Other Things You Should Know If You Get SSI Disability

If You Get Better

If you get SSI because of a disability or blindness, you must tell us if your condition improves. If your disability ends, your SSI will stop after a short adjustment period.

Reviewing Your Disability

If you get SSI because of a disability, we will occasionally review your case to make sure you're still disabled. How often we review your case depends on how bad your disability is. If your disability is expected to improve, we'll probably review your case six to eight months after your checks start.

When we review your disability, we may ask you to take special tests so we can decide if you are still disabled.

Vocational Rehabilitation Services

If you get SSI because of a disability, you may be contacted by your state's vocational rehabilitation agency. The people there may offer you help so you can return to work. The help may include paying for job training and educational expenses, and finding a new line of work. If you're offered vocational rehabilitation services, you should take them. If you refuse to accept these services, your SSI checks can be stopped.

Special Rules To Help You Work And Keep Your SSI

Tell us right away if you go to work no matter how little you earn. There are special SSI rules to help you try to work. Your SSI checks may continue while you work and are still disabled. As your earnings go up, your SSI checks will go down and may eventually stop. Even if your SSI checks stop, you may be able to keep your Medicaid coverage. Medicaid coverage may continue if you depend on it to work and don't earn enough to pay for similar medical help.

Tell us if you have any special work expenses because of your disability. These include items and services you need to work because of your disability. Some examples are a wheelchair, attendant care services, Braille devices, and certain drugs and medical services. The earnings you use to pay for these expenses don't count as income so they won't lower the amount of your SSI check.

If you work or would like to work, you may be able to have a "plan for achieving self-support (PASS)." A PASS allows you to put aside money to help you become more fully employed. Such a plan can help you with expenses for things such as education, vocational training, work-related equipment, or starting a business. Having a PASS usually means you can keep more of your SSI because the money you set aside won't lower your SSI check. As your earnings increase, it becomes more important for you to develop a plan.

You can get more information about all the special rules to help you work from any Social Security office. Ask for the booklet "Working While Disabled ... How We Can Help" (Publication No. 05-10095).

A Special Note For People Who Get SSI Because They're Blind

You can ask us for special handling of the letters we send you about changes in your SSI. We have two ways to give you these special letters. We can either telephone you or send your letters by certified mail.

If you work, be sure to tell us if any of your work expenses change. We don't count your work expenses as income so they won't lower the amount of your SSI.

Part 5--Other Things All SSI Recipients Should Know

This section tells you other things you should know when you get SSI checks.

If You Disagree With A Decision We Make

If you ever disagree with a decision we make about your checks, you have the right to ask us to look at it again. Whenever we send you a letter about your SSI, we'll tell you what to do if you disagree.

Your Right To Be Represented

You have the right to be represented by an attorney, or other person of your choice, in any business you have with us. This doesn't mean you'll need a representative. Most people handle their business themselves with the help of the people in the Social Security office. But, if you want somebody else to help you, we will be glad to work with your representative.

There are special rules about who may represent you and what your representative may do. If you want more information, call us to get a copy of the factsheet "Your Right To Representation" (Publication No. 05-10075).

If A Social Security Employee Visits You

If anyone comes to your home to talk about your SSI, ask for his or her identification. Anyone who is from Social Security will be glad to show you proper identification.

If you have any doubts about the person, you can call us to ask if someone was sent to see you. And remember: Social Security employees will never ask you for money to have something done. It's their job to help you.

Free Social Security Services

You never have to pay for information or service at Social Security. Some businesses advertise that they can provide name changes, Social Security cards, or earnings statements for a fee. All these services are provided free by Social Security. So don't pay for something that's free. Call us first. Social Security is the best place to get information about Social Security.

Social Services

People who get SSI may also be able to get social services from the state they live in. These services include free meals, housekeeping help, transportation, or help with social problems. You can get information about services in your area from your state or local social services or welfare office.

Food Stamps

People who get SSI can usually get food stamps, too. You can get a food stamp application at your Social Security office or local social services or welfare office.

A Special Note For People With Medicare

If you get Medicare and have low income and few resources, your state may pay your Medicare premiums and, in some cases, other Medicare expenses such as deductibles and coinsurance. Only your state can decide if you qualify. To find out if you do, contact your state or local welfare office or Medicaid agency. For more general information about the program, contact Social Security and ask for a copy of the leaflet "Medicare Savings For Qualified Beneficiaries (HCFA Publication No. 02104)."

Your Personal Information Is Safe With Social Security

Social Security keeps personal information on millions of people. That information--such as your Social Security number, earnings record, age, and address--is personal and confidential. Generally, we will discuss this information only with you. We need your permission if you want someone else to help with your Social Security business.

If you ask a friend or family member to call Social Security, you need to be with them when they call so we will know that you want them to help. The Social Security representative will ask your permission to discuss your Social Security business with that person.

If you send a friend or family member to our local office to conduct your Social Security business, send your written consent with them. Only with your written permission can Social Security discuss your personal information with them and provide the answers to your questions.

In the case of a minor child, the natural parent or legal guardian can act on the child's behalf in taking care of the child's Social Security business.

We urge you to be careful with your Social Security number and to protect its confidentiality whenever possible. Although we can't prevent others from asking for your Social Security number, you should know that your Social Security records are kept private.

There are times when the law requires Social Security to give information to other government agencies to conduct other government or health or welfare programs such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Medicaid, and food stamps. Programs receiving information from Social Security are prohibited from sharing that information.

For More Information

You can get more information 24 hours a day by calling Social Security's toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. You can call for an appointment or to speak to a service representative between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on business days. Our lines are busiest early in the week and early in the month so, if your business can wait, it's best to call at other times. Whenever you call, have your Social Security number handy.

If you have a touch-tone phone, recorded information and services are available 24 hours a day, including weekends and holidays.

People who are deaf or hard of hearing may call our toll-free "TTY" number, 1-800-325-0778, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on business days.

Social Security publications are available to users of the Internet. Type http://www.ssa.gov to access the Internet and these publications.

The Social Security Administration treats all calls confidentially--whether they're made to our toll-free numbers or to one of our local offices. We also want to make sure that you receive accurate and courteous service. That's why we have a second Social Security representative monitor some incoming and outgoing telephone calls.

Social Security Administration
SSA Publication No. 05-11011
June 1996
ICN 480265

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