Supplemental Security Income
If you need to consult with an attorney or would like more information on SSI, please contact the Erie County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral & Information Service.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits provide income for adults who cannot support themselves through employment due to a medical disability or are a minor with a qualifying disability. To qualify for SSI disability you must be able to show that you have medical problems serious enough to keep you from supporting yourself through working and that you have limited other income or financial resources to support yourself. Minors have special rules to determine if they are disabled. Both of these qualification requirements are defined by Social Security law. If you have paid Social Security taxes in the past you might also qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Social Security will determine your eligibility for both SSI and/or Social Security disability.
You can also get SSI if you are 65 or older and have limited other income and financial resources. If you are over 65 you do not have to prove you are disabled to get SSI. If you qualify for SSI your benefits are set amount by law, but do go up each year a cost of living adjustment is authorized.
You apply for SSI at the Social Security office. You may also start an SSI application online by going to the Social Security website.
Do not be discouraged if your application for SSI is denied. You have the right to file an appeal if you have filed an application for SSI disability and received a notice denying your claim. The appeal must be filed within 60 days of the date of the denial plus five days for mailing. The denial notice will tell you how you can file an appeal. While you can represent yourself, many applicants for SSI are successful on appeal of their initial claim denial. Please note as well that your chances of success are usually even higher on appeal if you obtain legal representation. You may contact Northwestern Legal Services at 800-665-6957, or online at nwls.org to see if you qualify for free legal help if you are denied SSI or a combined SSI/Social Security disability claim.
Unfortunately, it is usually a long time from when you file an appeal and a hearing is scheduled on the appeal with a Social Security Administrative Law Judge so you will have to be patient. While waiting for your hearing you, or your attorney if you have one, will be responsible to obtain medical records Social Security does not already have and develop more evidence to help prove your case.
You can appeal again if the Administrative Law Judge denies your claim. You should, however, have your case evaluated by an SSI disability attorney before filing an appeal from an Administrative Law Judge denial to make sure you have a valid reason under the law to appeal again.
It is, for many people, easier to qualify for SSI disability as they get older and, obviously, if their medical problems get worse. If you have been denied SSI disability in the past, but you are now older and/or your medical problems have gotten worse, consider filing a new application for SSI, which you can do at any time as there are no limits on the number of times you can file for benefits.
Information is current as of 2/2019.