What You Should Know about Social Security Income Benefits

By Cecelia Thomas and Kisshia Simmons Esq.

There are times in life that that we cannot plan for such as severe injury or illness that prevents us from earning an income.  In those situations, it is important to know what options are available for supplemental security income and what to do if your claim for these benefits has been denied.

What are Social Security Income Benefits?

The Social Security Administration has defined disability as the ability of an individual to work and provide for a living for themselves. Disability benefits are available only to people with impairments, so severe that they prevent any kind of significant, profitable work. Social Security pays only for total disability. Individuals are not entitled to benefits for partial disability or for short-term disability.  Disability benefits are available through two programs at the Social Security Administration: the Social Security Disability Insurance program, for people who have worked and paid Social Security taxes long enough to be eligible, and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which pays benefits based on financial need.  To receive Supplemental Security Income, the applicant has to prove they are disabled, blind, or at least 65 years old and have “limited” income and resources.

What is the Process if SSI Benefits are Denied?

If an applicant’s SSI benefits are denied, the applicant has sixty days from the date of the denial letter to file an appeal.  These are the most common grounds in which SSI decisions are challenged:

  • Impairment incorrectly classified as non-severe
  • The Administrative Law Judge Did Not Consider Both Severe and Non-Severe Impairments
  • The Deciding Judge did not give specific reasons for not finding the claimant believable

Right to Representation

For a SSI appeal, the claimant has a right to seek representation that can act on their behalf.  We strongly encourage anyone undertaking an SSI appeal to hire an attorney that can walk you through the process.  These matters can be complicated and we want to make sure that everyone receives the counsel they need in order to get all possible benefits.

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