The SSI Award Letter from Social Security

If an individual is approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits, they will receive an award letter. Unlike title 2 Social Security Disability benefits, title 16 SSI disability benefits are almost entirely handled by the local Social Security office.

What do we mean by this? When a person is approved for Social Security Disability, they can be placed into pay status relatively quickly without the need for additional hands-on development at the Social Security office where the claim was filed.

With SSI disability, this is not the case at all. All SSI award notices are received by approved claimants only after a final interview--the end-line interview--has been held with a SSI claims representative in a local Security Security field office.

Non-medical requirements and SSI

The purpose of this interview is to determine whether or not the claimant meets the non-medical requirements of the SSI program. If it is determined that they do not meet the non-medical requirements (for what is basically a need-based program), the SSI claim will be denied regardless of the fact that the claimant has been determined to have a medical disability.

What are the non-medical eligibility requirements for SSI? SSI requires claimants to meet certain income and resource limits to be eligible for monthly disability benefits. If a claimant is entitled to both SSI and Social Security Disability, their Social Security Disability benefit amount counts toward the SSI income limit. Consequently, many disability claimants who are concurrently entitled--entitled in both the SSD and SSI programs--are only able to actually receive SSI disability benefits during the Social Security Disability five month waiting period.

Social Security claims representatives also use the end line interview to discuss living arrangements since a beneficiary's household composition and ability to pay their share of the household expenses can determine their monthly SSI disability benefit amount.

The end line interview provides all the necessary information for the award letter. However, prior to this final interview, Social Security only knows that an individual medically meets the Social Security Administration's disability requirements (since their claim has been processed by a disability examiner at DDS, or disability determination services).

Is it ever the case that a person filing for SSI is found to be disabled by a disability examiner and then still denied because they do not meet the non-medical income or asset/resource requirements? It does sometimes happen, and it is for this reason that the Social Security Administration cannot send out an SSI award letter until the end-line interview is completed.

Information contained in the SSI Award Letter

A SSI award letter generally gives an approximate date that the beneficiary will receive their first monthly check. It also gives the amount of their disability benefits. Generally, SSI disability beneficiaries receive their SSI disability benefits in thirty to ninety days after they receive their award letter.

Unfortunately, most SSI award letters do not contain information about SSI disability back pay benefits. This is because back payment amounts are determined by manual computations after the end line interview.

Once an individual's back payment amount is determined, they will receive another informational letter that will give the amount of their SSI benefit back payment, how it will be paid out, and when to expect their first installment. Unless the back payment is small, SSI beneficiaries will not receive their SSI back pay benefits in one lump sum.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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