Supplemental Security Income is not the same as Social Security disability, but the disability standards are the same. Qualifying for either program requires meeting the strict definition of disability used by Social Security. You must not be able to participate in substantial gainful activity. The disability determination service reviews your condition to analyze if you meet the total and permanent disability standards for SSI. If you are over age 50, that determination may consider your age as a factor, in combination with your work skills.
SSI Resource and Income Requirements
You must meet the SSI resource and income requirements, as well as the disability requirements, to receive SSI benefits. Some resources are exempt, including your house and property, furnishings and car, along with burial plots and burial or life insurance under $1,500. You can have $2,000 in resources, such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds and similar assets as an individual. A couple can have $3,000 in resources. Your earned income must be less than $1,000 a month for disability qualification, but you may be able to deduct equipment used for employment. SSI regulations provide numerous opportunities for qualifying, if you meet the disability requirements.
The disability determination service performs your medical condition review in five steps, and may approve your disability before you get to any consideration for your age. The first step considers if you are working. Social Security considers $1,000 a month as substantial gainful activity in 2011, and denies disability claims for claimants who are working above that level. Step two questions the severity of your medical condition. Severity relates to your ability to sit, stand, walk and perform basic work functions. Step three checks for your condition on the list of impairments. The determination service compares your condition to those on the list, comparing severity. Step four evaluates your disability in terms of if you can do the work you did before.
Step five of the disability determination analyzes if you can do other work. The determination service reviews your age, your medical condition, your previous employment, and experience and skills for other work. A medical-vocational analysis considers your exertional level from your medical records and your age, education and work history. The exertional levels are sedentary, light, medium, heavy or very heavy, reports Kajal Lahiri, in a study appearing in the winter 1995 Social Security Bulletin. The significance of age 50 relates to unskilled sedentary exertional level of work. If you fall into this qualification and are between age 50 and 54, Social Security regulations grant a presumption that you cannot transition to other work. After age 55, the light exertional level receives the same presumption.
The vocational grid is a scoring tool or rubric used for disability determination in steps four and five. A presumption that you cannot transition to other work gives the worker over age 50 a legal advantage in the determination process. Disability over age 55 qualifies for this presumption at a higher exertional level on the vocational grid. This presumption improves the chances that the older unskilled laborer will qualify for SSI disability. Qualification may allow the claimant to receive SSI and Social Security disability concurrently, if the claimant has work history to meet Social Security disability requirements.
- Social Security Online; Disability Benefits; August 2010
- Social Security Online: 2011 Red Book
- "Social Security Bulletin"; Modeling SSA's Sequential Disability Determination Process Using Matched SIPP Data; Kajal Lahiri, et al.; 1995
- Social Security Online; A Guide to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Groups and Organizations; January 2010