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How Can I lose my SSI payments?

What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Supplemental Security Income or SSI is offered to the blind, disabled or age (65 years or older) who are unable to work for at least 12 continuous. What some SSI applicants do not realize is although you do not have to have work credits or a work history to qualify for SSI, unlike Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), SSI is only offered to claimants who have VERY limited income and resources. What does this mean for you? There are several things such as work or other types of income which may lower or eliminate your SSI payment.

What types of income can affect my SSI payments?

Many SSI recipients who receive SSI payments are shocked to find that if they get married or return to work they may lose their SSI payments. So let’s talk about what types of actions may reduce or completely eliminate your SSI benefits.

Returning to work and SSI

SSI applicants who return to work and do not understand the SSI disability process may have their SSI benefits reduced or eliminated, or even worse, they may end up owing the SSA thousands of dollars in back pay.

So what do you do if you want to work part-time and you are currently receiving SSI payments? First, talk to the SSA. They have several publications which outline the work process. In general, if you return to work the SSA will evaluate what they call your “countable income”.  Countable income is the gross amount of your earnings (after any expenses) necessary to keep you working and less any subsidized earnings provided by your employer.

You must report any wages you earn while you receive SSI. So if you are returning to work you must take your pay stubs to the SSA or mail them at the beginning of each month. Not all wages affect the SSI payments, but generally, the more income you earn the less you will receive in SSI benefits each month.

So can work eliminate your SSI payment? Yes, although the amount you can work and the amount of the SSI payment you can keep will depend on the amount of SSI you are receiving, if you work too much you may lose your SSI benefit.

Getting Married and SSI

Can your disability payments change if you get married? This question is very confusing to claimants, and the answer is yes, but only if you are receiving SSI and not SSDI.

SSDI or Social Security Disability Insurance is offered to claimants who have worked and earned enough work credits to be considered insured. If you become disabled but do not have enough work credits you will not qualify for SSDI and will have to apply for SSI.

If you apply for SSI, the SSA will consider your spouse’s income to determine if your family’s resource and income level is too high to qualify for SSI. The SSA will not consider your spouse’s income if you qualify for SSDI benefits.

Getting SSA retirement Benefits

Other life changes can also eliminate your right to SSI benefits. For instance, if you or your spouse gets SSA retirement and your income level rises too high or if you win a personal injury settlement or get a large inheritance you can lose your SSI benefits. Talk to the SSA or a disability lawyer if you have questions about your SSI benefit payments.

Things to report to the SSA if you get SSI

Because there are several things that affect your SSI benefits the Social Security Administration requests that claimants notify them if they go through a life event such as divorce, separation, marriage, birth of a child or spousal death. Failing to contact the SSA for certain life events could result in an over payment which you would be required to repay.
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