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Why is my SSI payment so low?

Many claimants want to know, “Why is my Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment so low?” This is a good question and there is probably a fairly simple answer. This blog will specifically address the process used to determine a claimant’s SSI disability payment and how it can be affected by your spouse’s income, a new marriage or divorce.

How does the Social Security Disability Administration determine the SSI payment amount?

Many claimants do not realize that the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit amount is determined at the federal level. The Social Security Administration has created what they term the Federal Benefit Rate, which is the maximum that is paid to eligible SSI individuals and couples each month. The Federal Benefit Rate is affected by the Consumer Price Index which takes  effect on January 1st of each year. If the federal benefit rate is adjusted it is called a Cost Of Living Adjustment or COLA.

For the last several years there was not a cost of living adjustment, but in 2012, the SSI federal benefit rate was increased to $698 per month for an individual and $1,048 per month for a couple.  If you are receiving around $698 per month as a qualifying individual this means that you are receiving the maximum which is paid in SSI benefits by the Social Security Administration.

Is my Supplemental Security Income (SSI) affected by where I live?

Yes, to make things a bit more complicated, there are certain states which add what they call a state supplemental benefit to the federal benefit rate. If you live in a state which adds a supplemental payment to your monthly SSI payment and you move to a state which does not provide a supplement, your SSI benefit may be lowered.

Contact the Social Security Administration if you have questions about your Supplemental Security Income payment and how it is calculated.

How is my SSI payment affected by marriage and divorce?

Unlike Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) which is paid based on your work history and how much you contributed into the SSA system, SSI, as mentioned above, is not. SSI is paid to claimants who do not have sufficient work credits for SSDI benefits.

So what does this mean? It means that if your spouse works and makes too much money or if you marry someone and their income is too high you could either lose your SSI benefits or you may not qualify for SSI.

What if you are divorce? Divorce could actually increase your SSI payments, assuming your SSI benefits were lower than the federal benefit rate due to your spouse’s income.

Many claimants complain about the amount of SSI money they receive each month, and it is obviously tough to support yourself on $698 per month, but it is important to remember that you are basically getting “free money,” unlike an SSDI claimant who contributed for years into the system and is simply getting some of their own money back.

Hiring a Disability Lawyer

If you have questions about the disability process and whether or not you qualify for either SSDI or SSI benefits, contact an SSI lawyer for help.
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