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I get SSI. Can I get more disability benefits if I have other health conditions?

SSI or Supplemental Security Income is awarded to the blind, aged (65 years or older) or disabled who are not considered “insured” by the Federal Government but need cash assistance to meet their minimum monthly expenses. SSI is only given to claimants who have VERY limited resources and income. All claimants must be unable to perform substantial gainful activity for at least 12 continuous months to qualify for SSI.

A recent forum question asked, “If I already get SSI for depression. Can I get more disability benefits for other health conditions such as cancer?”

Unfortunately, this is not quite how the SSI program works. If this claimant has been awarded SSI disability, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has decided the claimant cannot work due to their severe depression. The SSA had enough evidence, with only the claim of depression, to determine the claimant was 100% disabled; further claims of additional disability were not needed to win benefits and she was entitled to the FULL payment amount.

So let’s talk about how the SSA pays for SSI. SSI is generally given to claimants only after the SSA determines they do not have enough work credits to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. SSDI is awarded to claimants who have worked and paid enough in employment taxes to be considered insured.

The criteria to determine disability is the same for SSI and SSDI, so if the SSA decides you do not have enough work credits for SSDI, they will then evaluate your claim to see if you qualify for SSI benefits. If your income and resources are low enough and you are determined disabled you will be awarded SSI.

Supplemental Security Income benefits are paid based on the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR). For 2011, the Federal Benefit Rate is $674 per month for an individual and $1,011 per month for a couple. This rate is periodically adjusted and will be increased in 2012. Unless you have any additional income (including your spouse’s income) that potentially lowers your SSI benefit payment, you will receive the maximum payment amount of $674 per month (unless your state adds what they call a “state supplemental payment” which may make your payment higher in certain states).

Now, back to the claimant’s question. She was determined 100% disabled by the SSA for depression and now she receives the maximum payment amount allowed based on the Federal Benefit Rate. Now, if she is diagnosed with cancer, since she was already getting the full benefit payment, she will NOT get more money for any additional disabilities.

Now two other common questions concerning SSI: what if I move and why does my SSI payment change. If you move your payment amount can change if you move to a state that does not offer supplemental state payments. Additionally, your payment can vary from month to month depending on whether your living arrangements change and other individuals are providing support for you or if you begin to work part-time or you get married or divorced.

If you would like a disability attorney to review your claim you can fill out the FREE evaluation form and a disability advocate will call you to review your claim or you can call our office at 1-800-641-3759 to talk to someone now.